India is currently experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, with 21,800 new infections reported, the highest in 239 days. The active cases have also increased to 60313, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Monday. The death toll has climbed to 5,31,141 with 77 deaths reported.
Reasons for the Surge
According to the Indian Medical Association (IMA), the current increase in COVID-19 cases in India may be due to the relaxation of COVID-19 norms, a low testing rate, and the advent of a new COVID-19 variant. Many people are now less cautious about the coronavirus. Those who had symptoms declined to get checked. According to the IMA, this might have made it possible for the virus to propagate undetectedly and infect additional people. The vaccination drive has developed a false sense of security, and as a result, people lowered their guard against the infection. The virus that causes COVID-19 is constantly evolving, giving rise to new strains like XBB.1.16. Compared to the other versions, this new one is thought to be more contagious but fortunately less deadly.
New Variant Emerges
The newly discovered COVID-19 variant XBB.1.16 might be to blame for the rise in instances. Rising cases show that the virus has not vanished, and care must be taken. According to a BBC report, the omicron subvariant XBB.1.16 is the main cause of the upsurge. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), they were keeping an eye on the subvariant and its growth in India. But it isn’t known to be fatal and has been circulating for a while. “It’s been in circulation for a few months. We haven’t seen a change in severity in individuals or in populations, but that’s why we have these systems in place,” Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead, was quoted as saying in the report.
Symptoms of XBB.1.16 Variant
The XBB.1.16 subvariant has mutations on the amino acids and nucleotide space that give it the capacity to escape hybrid immunity achieved by vaccination and previous exposure to the virus. The signs and symptoms of the XBB.1.16 variant are very similar to those of the omicron variant, which include a high-grade fever for over 48 hours, cough, sore throat, body pain, severe headache, cold, and abdominal discomfort.
Reasons for the Surge
Dr Rajeev Jayadevan, Co-Chairman, National IMA COVID Task Force and former President, of IMA, said that the gradual waning of immunity, dropping of precautions, and genetic mutations are some reasons for the rising cases. “COVID-19 is a cyclical viral disease, which means that periodically there will be surges. Reasons include the gradual waning of immunity, dropping of precautions, greater mingling, travel, and genetic mutations that allow the virus to escape the human immune response from either vaccination, prior infection, or both.”
Impact of the Surge
The rise in cases has alarmed the public, with many not wanting a repeat of the dreadful second wave in 2021 due to the Delta COVID-19 variant, which saw many deaths as healthcare facilities could not structurally handle the number of serious cases. The Indian government has already started taking measures to control the spread of the virus, such as increasing testing and imposing restrictions in certain states.
Who Should Get Tested?
The IMA recommends that individuals experiencing symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, headache, body ache, loss of smell or taste, and breathlessness should undergo testing for COVID-19. Additionally, the IMA advises individuals to frequently wash their hands with soap and water for at least 40 seconds or to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer for at least 20 seconds. It is also crucial to wear a mask, particularly in crowded areas, and to avoid congested and poorly ventilated areas whenever possible.