MANILA, Oct 15 (Mabuhay) — An infectious diseases expert said the wearing of face masks and getting the COVID-19 booster shot are still important amid the threat of a new variant.

People cross a street in Manila going to their places of work. (MNS photo)

The XBB subvariant, which has been driving a new spike of cases in Singapore, has not been detected in the Philippines by the Department of Health (DOH). It is, however, believed to have higher immune evasion ability than previous variants.

“There’s a possibility that it can enter the Philippine because our borders are open now,” Dr. Rontgene Solante said.

Solante said even vaccinated Filipinos can get sick with the COVID-19 XBB variant, if and when it comes to the Philippines.

“Our first boostered population is really very low. And yet, if you look at Singapore, with a high boostered population, and yet getting an increase in the number of cases.”

Mask-wearing remains an important defense against COVID-19, Solante said.

“Face mask is our last protection against this infection. Which means that if the virus is present and can evade our neutralizing antibody because of this nature of very mutated virus, then it’s important to maintain the face mask.”

“Relaxing face mask at this point tin time may not be a good part of our action,” he said. (MNS)