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India asks states to ramp up testing as COVID-19 cases surge

India’s government is asking states to increase COVID-19 testing after seeing the highest daily case count since September.

Covid variants are seen as more dangerous than the original version of the virus because they are either more transmissible, deadly or able to get past some vaccine protections - © AFP/File DOUGLAS MAGNO
Covid variants are seen as more dangerous than the original version of the virus because they are either more transmissible, deadly or able to get past some vaccine protections - © AFP/File DOUGLAS MAGNO

India’s government is asking states to increase COVID-19 testing after seeing the highest daily case count since September.

There were 6,050 new cases of Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, the federal health ministry said on Friday, continuing a sharp upwards trend since a lull last year. Daily new cases have tripled since March.

India’s Health minister Mansukh Mandaviya, after reviewing this latest data, asked states to ramp up genome testing and conduct mock drills in hospitals, a government statement said, according to Reuters.

XBB.1.16, an omicron subvariant

The World Health Organization is monitoring XBB.1.16, an omicron subvariant that has been detected in over 20 countries and is contributing to the recent surge of COVID-19 cases in India, reports ABC News.

Known as “Arcturus,” XBB.1.16 has been listed as a WHO variant under monitoring since March 22, with 800 sequences of the omicron subvariant currently analyzed across 22 countries.

“Most of the sequences are from India and XBB.1.16 has replaced the other variants that are in circulation, so this is one to watch,” said Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead for COVID-19 response at the WHO, during a virtual press briefing last week.

XBB.1.16 has high infectivity and pathogenicity, Van Kerkhove noted. Active cases in India totalled more than 28,300 with 14 deaths during the last 24 hours, taking the country’s official death toll from the disease to 530,943.

India, a country with over 1.4 billion people, has recorded more than 44.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic three years ago, the third-highest tally after the United States and China.

In the U.S., XBB.1.16 has been reported in several states, including California, Washington, New Jersey, New York, Virginia and Texas, according to a tracker run by Dr. Rajendram Rajnarayanan of the New York Institute of Technology. On Twitter, he estimated that the lineage comprises 2.9 percent of current U.S. cases.

XBB.1.16 is a recombinant variant from BA.2.10.1 and BA.2.75. It has three additional mutations in the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein (E180V, F486P and K478R) compared with its parent lineage, XBB. It is very similar in profile to XBB.1.5, which currently comprises 85 percent of U.S. cases and 45 percent of global cases.

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We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of our dear friend Karen Graham, who served as Editor-at-Large at Digital Journal. She was 78 years old. Karen's view of what is happening in our world was colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in humankind's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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