Weekly Asian Medical News Bulletin

XBB Subvariant

Welcome to Medical Channel Asia’s weekly Asian medical news bulletin. Each week, we will bring you essential medical news from within the region to keep you up-to-day on the healthcare industry. This week, we examine the impact of the COVID-19 subvariant XBB, regional healthcare improvement plans, vaccinations and other news from across the region. 


Following recent optimism of not having recorded a case of the XBB subvariant of COVID-19, the health ministry announced earlier this week 81 cases of the more transmissible XBB subvariant and 193 cases of the variant XBC. The officer-in-charge also stated that the healthcare system capacity in the Philippines is still at low risk despite the development.


Vietnam looks to ramp up its vaccination programme for immunisation by piloting the use of the Rotavirus vaccine. It will be offered free to children under the age of 1. This is part of the more extensive roadmap laid out by the health ministry to increase the diversity of the vaccines provided and will continue with pneumococcal disease from 2025, cervical cancer from 2026, and seasonal flu from 2030.


Indonesia’s Directorate of Productive Age and Elderly Health, a division in its health ministry has called for more support from companies for its female employees’ health and welfare. They urged companies to provide workplace facilities like breastfeeding rooms and clinics among the suggestions offered.


The Thailand government is investing 5 billion baht (USD 131 million) to develop the tourist island of Phuket into an international health hub. This is an effort to boost tourism on the island as it reopens to tourism following COVID-19. The Andaman International Health Centre is expected to be completed in 2027.


The Singapore government is collecting feedback from its citizens as it plans to make amendments to the Healthcare Services act (HCSA) to better provide for patients. The changes will limit non-HCSA companies’ terminology in their branding and advertising. The changes are expected to be implemented in 2023. A new grant was also launched to speed up the adoption of new health technologies by hospitals and clinics. The new initiative will disburse SGD 1 million to successful applicants to develop and distribute their technologies across the country. 


Malaysia’s Caretaker Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has urged the nation to start preparing for an ageing population when it becomes an aging nation by 2030. He hopes geriatric care in the country will continue to improve as 14 per cent of the Malaysian population will comprise those aged 65 and above by 2030.


The Indian government has decided against procuring more COVID-19 vaccines. Health ministry officials stated that there is still sufficient stock of the vaccines in centres throughout the country amid low uptake in the available vaccines. COVID-19 cases in India hit 1,500 new cases on 18 October, its lowest in six months, despite the discovery of several subvariants in the country for the first time this week.

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