Singapore’s Health Minister, Ong Ye Kung, has said that he expects the current XBB SARS-CoV-2 wave to peak in mid-November 2022. 

In an assured press conference, Singapore’s Health Minister said he expects the XBB to crest at about 15,000 daily cases on average. Covid case levels in Singapore are currently averaging around 8,500 a day.

The key points of the broadcast are:

  • XBB is now the dominant variant in Singapore
  • The new wave is being driven by XBB, but contributed to by reinfections
  • XBB cases are expected to peak at about 15,000 cases in mid-November in a “short, sharp wave”
  • XBB is highly transmissible, but there is no evidence at the moment that it is causing more severe disease than other variants
  • Those who haven’t been infected with SARS-CoV-2 are most at risk, as are those who were infected in the Delta or pre-Delta era
  • Singapore has allocated 800 more hospital beds in the event that the current Covid situation worsens
  • Non-critical operations in hospitals are being postponed to free up medical staff
  • The Health Minister has not ruled out reintroducing masks or other mitigations if the situation requires it
  • Vaccination centres may be opened seven days a week to offer the bivalent vaccine if demand increases

XBB seems to be more prevalent in the COVID-naive, and for those originally infected in the Delta and pre-Delta era

Singapore Health Ministry data is showing that the vast majority of current Covid-19 cases are either asymptomatic or mild:

We have compared the current Covid situation in Singapore with that of October/November 2021, and, based on data from previous waves, the forecast of a November peak seems plausible. The XBB wave could still be Singapore’s second-largest wave of the pandemic however.

The Singapore Health Minister predicted that the XBB wave would peak in mid-November 2022, at around 15,000 daily cases on average. That prediction might be about right – there are already some small signs of the XBB wave starting to flatten – but there could still be a larger winter wave to come in December, based on data from previous waves in the territory:

It’s worth remembering too, at this point, that the middle of October has been something of an inflection point for both serious Covid cases and deaths across the globe in previous years.

Based on the information presented at the press conference, it seems to us that other countries could learn a lot from how Singapore is dealing with the pandemic. They are publishing more than enough data to allow their citizens to assess the Covid risk for themselves, which is exactly how it should be if populations are being expected to live with the virus.

The world may have dodged another bullet with XBB, but we remain convinced that a recombinant SARS-CoV-2 variant will eventually cause a reversion to Wuhan levels of virulence, or worse.

Recombinant variants are a roll of the dice, and with trillions of dice being rolled every day, it’s only a matter of time before our luck runs out.

Minimizing transmission to prevent new variants and recombinants should have always been our first priority for containing the virus.

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