We came across the following post being shared on Facebook:
Described as news from Singapore, the post describes the new XBB variant of the Covid-19 virus as being different, deadly and not easily detected, encouraging everyone to wear a mask. It also claims that “of course, the COVID-Omicron XBB is 5 times more toxic than the Delta variant and has a higher mortality rate than the Delta.”
Mask Mandates in Singapore
Since 29 August 2022, mask-wearing has only be required in healthcare facilities, residential care homes, and medical and public transport. However, the advice from the post for everyone to wear a mask is a viable one, as masks reduce the expulsion and transmission of droplets, which is the predominant route of transmission of COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases.
A recent article from a medical expert board comprising of 70 board-certified physicians and healthcare professionals found that while masks are less protective against the Omicron variants, masks still continue to be effective at reducing the risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19. As such, even though mask-wearing in Singapore is no longer mandatory in most public settings, persons should continue to exercise personal and social responsibility by continuing to wear their masks especially in crowded places, or when visiting or interacting with vulnerable persons.
XBB, a hybrid between two descendants of the BA.2 version of Omicron, has led to a surge in hospitalizations in Singapore which is expected to peak in mid-November or earlier. According to a statement from the World Health Organization however, current data do not suggest there are substantial differences in disease severity for XBB infections. However, early evidence does point to a higher reinfection risk compared to other Covid-19 variants.
Further research also found a statement from the Singapore Ministry of Health dated October 11 2022 that responds to falsehoods circulating about the XBB strain. In the statement, the Ministry states that there is no evidence that points to XBB causing more severe illness, with the large majority of patients continuing to report mild symptoms.
Based on available data, the claim that the Omicron XBB strain is 5 times more toxic than the Delta variant with a higher mortality rate is false. There is no evidence the Omicron XBB variant is more deadly or causes more severe COVID-19 than the Delta variant.