The "New Boy on the Block" XBB.1.16 Variant may be responsible for the recent increase in Covid cases. Guleria, Randeep

The "New Boy on the Block" XBB.1.16 Variant may be responsible for the recent increase in Covid cases. Guleria, Randeep

The new XBB.1.16 variant may be behind the recent rise in Covid cases, according to former AIIMS director Dr. Randeep Guleria, who said on Wednesday that there is no need to be alarmed as long as it does not result in serious illness and deaths. India had seen the highest number of Covid cases in more than four months.

While the virus continues to mutate over time and the XBB 1.16 is sort of a "new child on the block," new varieties will continue to emerge, Guleria told PTI in an interview.

The famous pulmonologist, a member of the national Covid task team, said that as long as they don't cause serious disease, hospitalisation, or deaths, they are OK because they assist the public develop some level of immunity if they are ill.

On the same day that he made his remarks, Prime Minister Narendra Modi convened a high-level meeting to assess the Covid situation and to assess the state of public health readiness.

The number of new coronavirus cases in India reached 1,134, the highest number in 138 days, while the number of active cases rose to 7,026, according to figures provided on Wednesday by the Union Health Ministry.

Five deaths have brought the total number of fatalities to 5,30,813.

According to Dr. Guleria, the virus changes with time and this is known as an antigenic drift. This occurs with both Covid and influenza. According to him, it will gradually change, mutate a little bit, and produce new varieties.

If we remember well, the Alpha, Beta, Gamma Delta, and Omicron versions were the first to appear during the Covid pandemic.

The virus thus continued to evolve. Fortunately, if we look at what has occurred over the past year, we find variants that are essentially Omicron-only sub-lineages. Hence, it appears that the virus has somewhat stabilised; it is not changing as quickly as it did in the past, according to Dr. Guleria.

On the likelihood that XBB 1.16 may trigger a new wave of cases in the coming days, he stated, "You may see a jump in number of cases," albeit they may go unreported at first because people were initially so worried that they would get themselves checked.

"Today, even if they exhibit flu-like symptoms, the majority of people choose not to self-test. Some people use the quick antigen test, and even when the results are positive, they choose not to disclose it. So, the real number we are reporting may be lower than the actual number in the community.

Dr. Guleria recommended persons who test positive to report the information since doing so enables government officials and policy makers to truly know the number of cases and make decisions and develop strategies.

Hence, even if there is a surge, there is no cause for concern as long as it does not result in hospitalisation or fatalities, he said. In order to adopt containment techniques and other public health measures on time, he said there is a need for active surveillance at the hospital and community levels to determine whether there is a rise in the number of cases and hospital admissions.