WHO declares XBB.1.16 as variant of interest; India records over 12,000 cases

As many as 3,648 sequences of the Omicron XBB.1.16 variant have been reported from 33 countries, including India, on the open research platform GISAID, the global health body.

Published: 22nd April 2023 08:09 PM  |   Last Updated: 23rd April 2023 10:37 AM   |  A+A-

A health worker conducts COVID-19 Rapid Antigen test at the district administration office, coronavirus

Image used for representational purpose only. (File Photo | PTI)

By Express News Service

NEW DELHI: The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared XBB.1.16 as a ‘variant of interest’. 

With Covid-19 cases surging globally, India recorded 12,193 new Covid-19 cases and 42 deaths in the last 24 hours. 

The WHO declared Omicron subvariant XBB.1.16, which is also driving the Covid-19 surge in India, a "variant of interest" (VOI) due to its "sustained increase" and "growth advantage" reported from 31 countries, including the US.

XBB.1.16 is a descendent lineage of XBB, a recombinant of two BA.2 descendent lineages. XBB.1.16 was first reported on January 9 this year and designated a variant under monitoring (VUM) on March 22.

"Following a sustained increase in the prevalence of XBB.1.16 and growth advantage reported from several countries, WHO classifies XBB.1.16 as a VOI," Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead for Covid-19 response at WHO, said.

She said that XBB.1.16, first detected in Maharashtra in March, has shown "growth advantage and immune escape".

While "no changes in severity have been reported, it can cause a full range of diseases," she said, adding that "be vigilant."

As many as 3,648 sequences of the Omicron XBB.1.16 variant have been reported from 33 countries, including India, on the open research platform GISAID, the global health body.

According to union health ministry data, India, in the last 24 hours, recorded 12,193 fresh Covid-19 cases, a 4.28 per cent increase from the previous day, with the number of active cases of the infection going up to 67,556.

As Covid-19 cases and deaths are seeing an uptick, the Union Health Ministry on Friday wrote to eight states - Kerala, poll-bound Karnataka, Haryana, Delhi, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Rajasthan – highlighting that the pandemic was far from over and that controlling the spread of infection was crucial.

According to the ministry, while 63 districts in the country are recording a positivity rate of more than 10 per cent in the week ending April 19, 42 districts have registered a positivity rate between 5-10 per cent in the same period. While in Kerala, 14 districts are recording over 10 per cent positivity rate; in Tamil Nadu, as many as 11 districts have recorded the same number.

However, experts said that apart from these eight states, other states also reported a spike in new infections.

Among the states are - Madhya Pradesh, which reported a 60 per cent hike in number from the previous day. The other states are Karnataka (25 %), West Bengal 23%), Odisha (13), and Chandigarh (11%), according to Krishna Prasad N C, a Covid data analyst.

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The death toll from the viral disease has climbed to 5,31,300, with 42 more fatalities, including ten reconciled by Kerala, in the last 24 hours.  As per health ministry data, 32 deaths, the highest number of new deaths since August 30 last year – were reported, with Delhi registering eight deaths. This is followed by Maharashtra (5).

While Kerala, Chhattisgarh, and Uttar Pradesh reported three deaths each; Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Tamil Nadu recorded two deaths each; and Uttarakhand, Puducherry, Punjab, and Madhya Pradesh registered one death each in the last 24 hours.

Though, the WHO noted that although there has been a "slight increase" in XBB.1.16-related hospitalisation in India and Indonesia, the levels are "much lower than seen in previous variant waves."

It further said that "available information does not suggest that XBB.1.16 has additional public health risk relative to XBB.1.5 and the other currently circulating Omicron descendent lineages.

"However, XBB.1.16 may become dominant in some countries and cause a rise in case incidence due to its growth advantage and immune escape characteristics," it added.


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