All you need to know about Covid’s new XE variant and how serious is it
The Indian economy has fully opened up, with the central and state governments lifting all Covid-related restrictions. But now a new threat, it appears, is looming in the form of a new variant that is said to be more infectious than the Omicron variant that overtook the deadly Delta to become the dominant Covid type across most of the world.
The new variant—called XE—has already entered India.
How serious is the new variant?
So far, there is no scientific evidence XE is any more serious in disease severity than the Omicron variant. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that more data is needed to understand the transmissibility of the mutation.
What has the Indian government said on the new variant so far?
Simply put, the Indian government says don’t panic. Dr NK Arora, chief of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI), said on Monday it's not a reason to panic. “It’s of X series like XE and others... nothing to panic about as none of these are causing serious diseases or at the moment from Indian data it doesn’t show a very rapid spread," Arora was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
Where all have cases been reported from?
In India, there has so far been only one confirmed case reported from Mumbai. The 67-year-old man travelled to Vadodara in Gujarat.
The Hindustan Times newspaper reported that a case of XE was detected in Gujarat on Saturday. A recombinant variant of two Omicron strains - BA.1 and BA.2 - the subvariant was detected as a 67-year-old man tested positive. The Centre, however, is yet to confirm the case.
Another case was earlier reported in Mumbai by the civic body, but the Centrel didn’t confirm it.
Where was the XE variant first detected? Which counties have so far reported it?
A few days back, the WHO said that the XE variant was first detected in the UK on January 19 and more than 600 sequences were reported and confirmed since then. The subvariant has also been detected in Thailand and New Zealand.
What are the symptoms of the new XE variant?
Symptoms include fever, sore throat, scratchy throat, cough and cold, skin irritation and discolouration, and gastrointestinal distress. The symptoms of the XE variant can be mild and severe for others, depending on the health condition of an individual. The symptoms and severity also depended on the vaccination status and immunity acquired from earlier infections.
Have any states taken containment measures so far?
South India-focussed news website The News Minute reported that Karnataka Health Minister K Sudhakar said the government was mulling imposing new rules for foreign travellers entering the state. These rules will apply to those coming from eight countries — including China, Hong Kong, South Korea, the UK and Germany — where the number of cases caused by the XE variant is increasing, the minister said after meeting with the COVID-19 Technical Advisory Committee on Monday. The TAC has recommended measures at the airports for the same, the report said.
For travellers from these countries, rules such as thermal screening, strict surveillance, and mandatory quarantine for a period of seven to 10 days have been suggested by the committee, Sudhakar said. “The government will soon release guidelines regarding this,” he added, while urging people to continue following COVID-19 precautionary measures, including wearing of masks.
He also urged those who have not yet received the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to do so at the earliest. “Some have blamed the government for the COVID-19 wave and shortage of vaccines in the past.
Is there likely to be a fourth wave in India?
From the available information so far, highly unlikely. But things can change quickly, as happened around the same time last year, when India saw its worst Covid wave, in which lakhs of people lost their lives.
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