Covid surge: THIS new variant likely responsible for fresh spike in India

Scientists believe that a new descendant of the Covid-19 XBB variant–XBB1.16– could be behind the recent surge in coronavirus cases in India over the past few days. The fast-spreading variant has been detected in various countries including China, Singapore, the United States, and others. 

As per covSPECTRUM, XBB 1.16 variant has not descended from XBB 1.15. Both XBB 1.16 and XBB 1.15 have descended from the recombinant ancestor XBB variant.

An international platform tracking Covid variants stated that India reported the highest number of XBB 1.16 variant cases, currently, the tally stands at 48. Singapore and the US detected 14 and 15 cases respectively, according to a report by The Times of India. 

“Thee India states–Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, and Maharashtra–are having a high prevalence of XBB 1.16 Covid variant,” a top genome expert said. 

Speaking to TOI, Dr Vipin M Vashishtha, a member of WHO’s Vaccine Safety Net who has been tracking new Covid variants, said the previous XBB.1 descendant, XBB.1.5, had become dominant across the globe but not in India. 

“There is some worry about XBB.1.16 globally because it has certain mutations in the non-spike region of the virus: two ORF9b mutations. ORF9b has been implicated in efficient immune evasion,” Vashishtha was quoted by TOI. 

The Union Health Ministry on Thursday informed that India recorded 734 fresh Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours, after a gap of over four months, taking the active caseload to 4,623. The total tally of Covid cases reported so far has reached 4.46 crore (4,46,92,710).

Earlier on Saturday, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan wrote a letter to the States and Union Territories. Bhushan flagged that the gradual rise in Covid-19 test positivity rates in some States is a concerning issue that needs to be promptly addressed.

“Despite the low number of new cases, equally low number of hospitalizations and significant advances made in terms of Covid-19 vaccination coverage, there is still a need to remain vigilant and focus on the five-fold strategy of test-track-treat-vaccination and adherence to Covid appropriate behavior,” Bhushan said in his letter.

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