XBB Covid-19 wave may peak in S’pore earlier than mid-November: Ong Ye Kung

Individuals should still take their vaccinations as protection in case another wave hits Singapore, said Mr Ong Ye Kung. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE – The ongoing wave of Covid-19 infections driven by the XBB sub-variant may peak earlier than mid-November, as previously expected.

“It’s quite clear from the last week the cases have actually started to come down,” Minister for Health Ong Ye Kung told reporters on Sunday at a community event in Sembawang GRC, where he is an MP.

“If it continues to come down from here, that means our modelling actually was a bit more pessimistic,” he said.

Mr Ong added that if this downtrend persists, it means the XBB wave has peaked earlier than expected.

The XBB Omicron sub-variant, otherwise known as BA.2.10, is currently the dominant cause of Covid-19 infections in Singapore, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) in a statement on Oct 15. The ministry added that it expected the XBB infection wave to peak by around mid-November. 

Mr Ong was speaking on the sidelines of the launch of the indoor sports hall at the Bukit Canberra integrated sports and community hub.

Responding to another question on high patient volumes at public health emergency departments, with the wait for a bed going up to 50 hours, Mr Ong said these departments have been busy since the beginning of the year.

The situation gets worse during a Covid-19 wave, such as during the two Omicron variant waves, as well as the ongoing XBB wave, he said.

But he added that patient volumes are not driven by those with Covid-19. “They (emergency departments) are not seeing a lot of Covid-19 patients but normal patients... or business-as-usual patients.”

However, more ward space is being taken up by Covid-19 patients during a wave, which makes it harder for a bed to be allocated to non-Covid-19 patients, he said.

Mr Ong added that the bed crunch is why the ministry is working with hospitals to activate measures to mitigate the crunch at emergency departments and ensure there are enough resources and manpower to care for patients.

He also said that individuals should still take their vaccinations as protection, even if the current wave subsides, in case another wave hits Singapore.

Responding to another question on why seniors should take bivalent vaccines, Mr Ong said the bivalent vaccines have an updated formulation that is more effective against the current Covid-19 sub-variant driving infections. Around 20,000 have already taken those vaccines.

The first bivalent vaccine to be rolled out was the Moderna/Spikevax bivalent vaccine, which was made available at nine joint testing and vaccination centres islandwide three days ahead of schedule on Oct 14.

Meanwhile, Pfizer-BioNTech’s bivalent Comirnaty vaccine, which is still under evaluation, is expected to be available by the end of 2022.

First detected in August, the XBB sub-variant has been found in more than 17 countries, including Australia, Denmark, India and Japan.

While XBB is at least as transmissible as the other strains currently circulating, including BA.5 and BA.2.75, MOH said in the Oct 15 statement there is no evidence that it causes more severe illness.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.