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No evidence of severity of new Covid variant

XBB.1.16 has become the predominant variant of Sars-CoV-2 in India, according to a genome sequence analysis published by Indian experts, who said that the occurrence did not correlate with any worrisome symptoms of severity, although there was a slight tick in the recorded cases.

The surge in reported cases – India recorded an average of 966 new cases on Wednesday, compared with 520 a week earlier – prompted the government to step back and review the situation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged states and federal authorities to be adequately vigilant about the nature of the circulating virus and the behavior patterns of people.

“Although the number of cases is increasing slightly, there is no evidence of an increase in hospitalizations or deaths, which are usually a cause for concern,” said a senior central government official, requesting anonymity, adding that the disease is likely moving towards an endemic.

According to the government of eight states — Maharashtra (4.49%), Gujarat (2%), Kerala (4.17%), Karnataka (3.08%), Tamil Nadu (2.26%), Delhi (3.76%) , Himachal Pradesh (7.1%) ) and Rajasthan (1.43%) – show an increasing trend in the test positivity ratio, with the overall average of this number being 1.08%. In February, the average weekly positivity of cases in the country was 0.09%.

The numbers alone are not alarming, and some experts believe that more people are being tested because of the flu virus that is circulating, and that some of them are testing positive for Covid-19. Former director of AIIMS-Delhi, Dr Randeep Guleria, also said there is no need to panic unless it leads to serious illness.

“As long as they don’t lead to serious illness, hospitalization and death, that’s fine because it helps provide some degree of immunity to the population if they have a mild illness,” he said.

Of all whole-genome Covid-positive samples sequenced between January 1 and March 23, 344 were XBB.1.16 positive, followed by 196 XBB.1.5 positive samples and 146 XBB.2.3 subvariant samples.

“XBB.1.16 has already been found to have high throughput compared to its predecessors, but its clinical significance has yet to be scientifically determined. Research is taking place all over the world and our experts are also working on it. However, there is no evidence yet to suggest that this sub-variant causes more severe disease,” said another senior government official, requesting anonymity.

According to experts, XBB.1.16 is a recombinant strain of the virus that originates from a subvariant of XBB and is close to XBB.1.5 in terms of the number of accumulated mutations. It has a greater growth advantage over other sub-lines.

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