SINGAPORE - No deaths or severe cases have been linked to the XBB strain of the Omicron variant so far.
The sub-variant has been driving up case numbers in Singapore and other parts of the world, with test samples taken a month ago from Covid-19 patients in intensive care units or in need of oxygen supplementation not showing signs of the new strain.
However, only time will tell if these individuals have tested positive for the new sub-variant, with there being a lag time between developing severe symptoms and sequencing to confirm the strain of Covid-19.
But although the XBB sub-variant is highly transmissible, Singapore's director of medical services Kenneth Mak said it may be less virulent than prior waves of the virus.
This, he added, is "what we hoped for".
Associate Professor Mak said: "If we can have a variant that outcompetes all the other variants but, in fact, contributes to less severe infections... that would be a lesser burden on our hospital resources."
The latest rise reflects a new wave of Covid-19 cases for the Republic, with more than 9,000 reported to the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Friday.
The XBB sub-variant accounted for 54 per cent of local cases during the week of Oct 3 to 9.
This was an increase from the week prior, when XBB cases made up 22 per cent of local Covid-19 cases.
The sub-variant has been detected in countries such as Australia, Bangladesh, Denmark, India, Japan and the United States since August.
Data from MOH has shown that in the last two weeks, XBB cases are estimated to have a 30 per cent lower risk of hospitalisation compared with the previously predominant BA.5 variant cases, which are estimated to account for 21 per cent of local cases.
The ministry said it will continue to monitor the situation, even though the number of severe cases has been low, with a majority of patients reporting mild symptoms such as sore throat or slight fever, especially if they have been vaccinated.
Vaccinated individuals may still get infected with the XBB strain, with booster jabs recommended for those who are eligible.