Covid in India: What is Arcturus, the new variant that's causing the sharp rise in infections?

Study finds it to be more infectious than other sub-variants

By Web Desk

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Published: Thu 13 Apr 2023, 9:51 PM

Last updated: Thu 13 Apr 2023, 11:26 PM

A new Covid-19 subvariant is said to be responsible for the surge in infections in India and the World Health Organisation (WHO) is monitoring the variant that has forced authorities in the country to reintroduce some safety measures like mandatory mask-wearing.

Arcturus, or XBB.1.16 ,as it known in clinical circles, is the name of the new variant.

According to reports, a study by the University of Tokyo showed that Arcturus is the most infectious sub-variant until now and is 1.2 times as transmissible as XBB.1.5. Two subvariants of the Omicron variant combine to create the XBB.1.16 subvariant.

It was Dr. Vipin M. Vashishtha, a former convenor of the Indian Academy of Paediatrics Committee on Immunization, who popularised the name Arcturus and alerted people on social media about the new variant.

“All eyes should be on India! If XBB.1.16 aka Arcturus could succeed to wade through the ‘sturdy’ population immunity of Indians that successfully resisted the onslaught of variants like BA.285, BA.5, BQs, XBB.1.5, then the whole world must be seriously worried”, he said in his tweet.

States like Haryana and Kerala have already issued some Covid-19 restrictions while AIIMS Delhi has sent out an advisory making it mandatory for all hospital staff to wear masks inside the premises and follow Covid-appropriate behaviour.

"Must use reusable cloth face cover/surgical mask in the workplace. Ensure proper cleaning and frequent sanitation of the workplace, particularly of the frequently touched surfaces," the advisory said.

Gatherings of five or more persons in canteens or offices have also been banned.

According to latest reports, Delhi recorded 1,527 fresh Covid cases on Thursday, which is about 33 per cent higher than yesterday. Two more people also died increasing the capital's death count to 26,549. The daily Covid-19 cases recorded in the country on Thursday was10,158.

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