Covid-19 cases may peak at 15,000 daily, can't rule out return of indoor mask-wearing: Ong Ye Kung

No cases infected with the XBB subvariant are in ICU.

Matthias Ang | October 15, 2022, 01:27 PM

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The number of cases for the current wave of Covid-19 infections may peak at about 15,000 daily cases.

This figure was attained from data modelling the current wave together with experts from the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung highlighted on Oct. 15.

Such a wave is likely to be "short and sharp", largely driven by the XBB Omicron subvariant, he said.

It is also expected to peak at around mid-November.

Bringing back stricter mask mandates or other safe management measures cannot be ruled out, he added.

But he also said Singapore is striving to never go back to the restrictions of the circuit breaker period during the early stages of the pandemic in 2020 and urged Singaporeans to take personal responsibility.

"Maybe we put back our masks, say indoors, or indoors and outdoors, if the situation requires it," Ong said.

He added: "We may have to step up VDS (vaccination-differentiated safe management measures) to an appropriate level in order to protect those who are not up to date with their vaccinations."

Seniors and immuno-compromised people are advised to continue to wear masks in crowded indoor settings.

No XBB cases are in ICU

Kenneth Mak, director of medical services, noted that while the number of Covid-19 cases is rising, the number of severe cases and hospitalisations is not as high compared to previous waves.

With regard to the hospitalised Covid-19 cases, more of them are currently infected with the BA.5 and BA.2.75 variants than the XBB variant.

In addition, none of the cases in intensive care are due to the XBB variant, he said.

Mak said this reinforced the point by ministers that while the XBB variant is highly transmissible, it may not actually be as virulent or lead to more severe infections compared to other variants.

Mak said: "This, of course, is what we hope for, because if you have a variant that outcompetes all the other variants, but in fact contributes to less severe infections in hospitals, that would be a lesser burden on healthcare resources."

Should this trend continue to hold forth, it will mean that the healthcare system is indeed more resilient and that Singapore can handle the current wave in stride without the need to re-impose other measures, he added.

When asked if there were any deaths from the XBB variant, Mak confirmed that there have not, but said this "space" should be watched in the next few months.

XBB accounted for more than half of all local cases from Oct. 3 to 9

MOH noted that XBB is now the predominant subvariant circulating in the community, accounting for 54 per cent of local cases during the week of Oct. 3 to 9, from 22 per cent the previous week.

The previously dominant subvariant, BA.5, is now estimated to account for 21 per cent of local cases, while the subvariant BA.2.75 is estimated to account for 24 per cent of cases.

In addition, there is evidence that XBB may be driving an increase in reinfections.

The proportion of reinfections among total Covid-19 cases in Singapore has been increasing over the past month, with reinfections currently making up about 17 per cent of total new cases.

Top photo by Zheng Zhangxin