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XBB.1.16 Variant ‘New Kid On The Block’, Could Be Driving Recent Rise In Covid Cases: Dr Randeep Guleria

New variants will keep coming as the virus keeps on mutating over the time and the XBB 1.16 is sort of a “new kid on the block”, Dr Guleria told PTI in an interview

XBB.1.16 Variant 'New Kid On The Block', Could Be Driving Recent Rise In Covid Cases: Dr Randeep Guleria
The new XBB.1.16 variant could be driving the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in India, said Dr Randeep Guleria

New Delhi: As India witnessed the highest number of Covid cases in over four months, former AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria on Wednesday (March 22) said the new XBB.1.16 variant could be driving the recent rise but emphasised there was no need for panic as long it does not cause severe illness and deaths. New variants will keep coming as the virus keeps on mutating over the time and the XBB 1.16 is sort of a “new kid on the block”, Dr Guleria told PTI in an interview.

“… As long as they don’t lead to severe illness, hospitalisation and deaths, it is alright because it helps in giving some degree of immunity to the population if they have mild illness,” the renowned pulmonologist, who was part of the national Covid task force, said.

Also Read: Amid Rise In Covid Cases, Centre Asks 6 States To Take Measures For Its Prompt And Effective Management

His comments come on a day when Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a high-level meeting to review the Covid situation and also took stock of the public health preparedness.

India recorded 1,134 new coronavirus cases, the highest in 138 days, while the active cases increased to 7,026, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Wednesday.

The death toll has climbed to 5,30,813 with five deaths.

According to Dr Guleria, the virus evolves over time, and this happens both with Covid and influenza, and this is what is called an antigenic drift.

It will gradually evolve, mutate a little bit and new variants will emerge, he added.

Dr Guleria said,

If we remember when we had the Covid outbreak, it started off with Alpha, Beta, Gamma Delta and Omicron variants.

So the virus kept on changing. Luckily, if we look at what has happened in the last one year, we have got variants which are basically sub-lineages of Omicron only. So it seems the virus has stabilized a little bit, it is not changing as rapidly as it was in the past.

Also Read: PM Modi Holds High-Level Review Meeting On Covid, Influenza Situation; Stresses On Covid-Appropriate Behaviour

On whether XBB 1.16 has the potential to drive a fresh wave of cases in the next few days, he said, “You may see a surge in number of cases” but then they may be underreported as initially people were very concerned and would get themselves tested.

“Now even if they have flu-like symptoms, most people don’t get themselves tested. Some use the rapid antigen test, and even if they are positive they do not report it. So the number we are actually reporting may be less than the actual number in the community.” Dr Guleria advised that those who test positive must report the data because that helps policy makers and government to actually to know the number of cases and take a decision and plan a strategy.

So even if we see surge, there is no need to worry, as long it does not translate into hospitalization and deaths it is alright, he said.

He said there is a need for active surveillance both at hospital and community levels to find out whether there is an increase in number of cases and hospital admissions so that containment strategies and other public health measures can be implemented on time.

Also Read: Amid COVID-19 Rise, 349 Samples Of Infectious New Variant XBB1.16 Found In India

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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