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Covid-19: MOH refutes WhatsApp rumours claiming rapid surge in severe illness, deaths from new XBB strain

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Health (MOH) on Tuesday (Oct 11) refuted rumours circulating on messaging platform WhatsApp that there is a rapid and large increase in Covid-19 cases here with severe illness and deaths due to the circulating XBB strain of the Omicron variant. 

Covid-19: MOH refutes WhatsApp rumours claiming rapid surge in severe illness, deaths from new XBB strain
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SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Health (MOH) on Tuesday (Oct 11) refuted rumours circulating on messaging platform WhatsApp that there is a rapid and large increase in Covid-19 cases here with severe illness and deaths due to the circulating XBB strain of the Omicron variant.

The ministry said in a statement that it is also initiating action under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) against such falsehoods. 

MOH states on its website that the XBB sub-variant has been detected in several countries such as Australia, India, Japan and the United States since August this year.

"Based on preliminary local data, XBB cases are not more serious than other Omicron sub-variants." 

MOH said in its statement on Tuesday that although there has been an increase in cases here driven by XBB, including the post-weekend spike this Tuesday, the number of severe cases has remained relatively low.

"This is very likely due to the resilience built up through vaccination and previous waves of infection. We are monitoring the trajectory closely." 

More importantly, there is also no evidence of XBB causing more severe illness, MOH added.

"So far, the large majority of patients continue to report mild symptoms such as sore throat or slight fever, especially if they have been vaccinated." 

As of Tuesday, there are 11 Covid-19 patients under intensive care and 50 need oxygen support, just "slightly higher" than the level observed in the past few months, the ministry said.

In comparison, at the peaks of the previous Delta and Omicron infection waves, these numbers were 171 patients under intensive care and 308 who need oxygen aid, while at the peak of the Omicron wave, there were 54 patients in intensive care units and 242 who need oxygen support.

"The increase in hospitalised cases is in line with the overall increase in cases," MOH added. "There are currently 490 hospitalised cases compared to 1,600 at the peak of the Delta wave and about 800 at the peak of the Omicron wave."

The ministry also said that the emergency departments at hospitals, however, "continue to be very busy".

"We encourage members of the public not to rush to the emergency departments unless they are experiencing an emergency medical condition.

"Patients who walk into emergency departments with non-emergency conditions, including children, will be diverted to other urgent care clinics or primary care clinics for further assessment, so as to prioritise emergency department resources for patients who need the medical care." 

Earlier on Tuesday, MOH said that it was bringing forward the rollout of the Moderna-Spikevax bivalent vaccine, which offers protection against the original Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus and its Omicron variant, due in part to the fast rise in cases of the XBB strain.

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Covid-19 Omicron Pofma MOH WhatsApp

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