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10,158 Fresh Cases In Last 24 Hours: Why Is India Witnessing COVID-19 Surge?

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) and experts attribute the rise to three major reasons.

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Amid ongoing surge, India added 10,158 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, 13 April. With this, the count of active cases in the country has increased to 44,998, as per health ministry data.

As on 1 January, India was recording less than 300 fresh cases of the novel coronavirus.

So, why is India witnessing a surge in cases now? The Indian Medical Association (IMA) and experts attribute it to three major reasons.

10,158 Fresh Cases In Last 24 Hours: Why Is India Witnessing COVID-19 Surge?

  1. 1. ICYMI, There's a New Variant in Town

    The new Omicron variant, called XBB.1.16, is said to be the key reason driving the current COVID-19 surge in India.

    First detected in the country in January, XBB.1.16 has replaced other circulating sub-variants in India and has shown indications of enhanced infectivity, and perhaps, increased pathogenicity in laboratory tests.

    According to the latest data available, India has recorded 1,774 cases of the XBB1.16 variant across 22 states and Union Territories. Over 230 of the infected patients have contracted XBB1.16.1, the mutated sub-variant of Omicron, according to the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) data.

    While this is also not the only COVID variant floating around, it is the one that experts are tracking.

    "At the present time, there are about 800 sequences of XBB.1.16 from 22 countries. Most of the sequences are from India and in India XBB.1.16 has replaced the other variants that are in circulation. So, this is one to watch. It has been in circulation for a few months," the World Health Organization said in a recent statement.

    Expand
  2. 2. Relaxation of COVID Norms

    Dr Monalisa Sahu, Consultant Infectious Diseases, Yashoda Hospitals, Hyderabad, told FIT how getting lax with COVID norms, like the wearing of masks, could lead to a surge. "Especially when a variant like XBB.1.16 is showing signs of being more transmissible," the expert added.

    "The main route of transmission of the infection is by the respiratory route, by droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Using a fitting mask while going out to crowded places or while taking care of patients with respiratory symptoms can help prevent the spread of infection," Dr Sahu said.

    Amid the surge in cases, a number of Indian states have re-imposed mask mandate in public spaces and have called for stricter implementation of COVID norms, especially in crowded places.

    But the surge due to relaxation of COVID norms is likely to go on for a while. Speaking to news agency PTI, Gautam I Menon, dean (research) and professor, Departments of Physics and Biology at Haryana's Ashoka University, said:

    "We are likely to keep seeing ups and downs of COVID cases at different times in different places for a long time to come."
    Expand
  3. 3. 'People Are Ignoring Symptoms, Not Getting Tested'

    Currently, the infection caused by the variant is mild – with people experiencing fever, sore throat, cold, head ache, and body ache, among other symptoms.

    "People with respiratory symptoms are either ignoring the symptoms as flu, or are approaching healthcare facilities and not getting themselves tested for COVID-19 even when asked to. This is despite the government and private labs being well-equipped to conduct COVID-19 PCR tests," Dr Sahu told FIT.

    Menon told PTI that the relatively small number of people dying of COVID as of now seem to be those with pre-existing conditions. However, people are likely not being tested in sufficient numbers, as was the case during the Omicron wave, he added.

    "As long as we keep careful track of mortality and severe cases, we should be able to track the disease well, even in the absence of large-scale testing," Menon to PTI.

    "People with symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, headache, body ache, loss of smell or taste, breathlessness should get tested for corona," IMA added further, advising people to wash hands frequently, wear masks, avoid crowded places and poorly ventilated settings, and getting vaccinated.

    Expand
  4. 4. Should India Consider Another Round of Precautionary Doses?

    We do not know yet – as the efficacy of these booster doses have not been studied yet, especially in light of emerging variants.

    "We should be looking at what the frequency of boosting ought to be and what we should be boosting with. For example, with mRNA vaccines, you get a really high antibody response and then it crashes. You inject again and antibodies go up to a high level and then it crashes. By the time you get to the fourth dose, your boosts are getting lower and lower each time," Dr Gagandeep Kang, virologist, told FIT, back in October 2022.

    "However, with some of the adenovirus, vector vaccine, you actually see that the immune response takes a longer time to mature. It takes six months. So, assessing which combination of vaccine gives us the best immune response, both antibodies as well as cellular response, that last for a long time is really important," she added.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

ICYMI, There's a New Variant in Town

The new Omicron variant, called XBB.1.16, is said to be the key reason driving the current COVID-19 surge in India.

First detected in the country in January, XBB.1.16 has replaced other circulating sub-variants in India and has shown indications of enhanced infectivity, and perhaps, increased pathogenicity in laboratory tests.

According to the latest data available, India has recorded 1,774 cases of the XBB1.16 variant across 22 states and Union Territories. Over 230 of the infected patients have contracted XBB1.16.1, the mutated sub-variant of Omicron, according to the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) data.

While this is also not the only COVID variant floating around, it is the one that experts are tracking.

"At the present time, there are about 800 sequences of XBB.1.16 from 22 countries. Most of the sequences are from India and in India XBB.1.16 has replaced the other variants that are in circulation. So, this is one to watch. It has been in circulation for a few months," the World Health Organization said in a recent statement.

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Relaxation of COVID Norms

Dr Monalisa Sahu, Consultant Infectious Diseases, Yashoda Hospitals, Hyderabad, told FIT how getting lax with COVID norms, like the wearing of masks, could lead to a surge. "Especially when a variant like XBB.1.16 is showing signs of being more transmissible," the expert added.

"The main route of transmission of the infection is by the respiratory route, by droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Using a fitting mask while going out to crowded places or while taking care of patients with respiratory symptoms can help prevent the spread of infection," Dr Sahu said.

Amid the surge in cases, a number of Indian states have re-imposed mask mandate in public spaces and have called for stricter implementation of COVID norms, especially in crowded places.

But the surge due to relaxation of COVID norms is likely to go on for a while. Speaking to news agency PTI, Gautam I Menon, dean (research) and professor, Departments of Physics and Biology at Haryana's Ashoka University, said:

"We are likely to keep seeing ups and downs of COVID cases at different times in different places for a long time to come."
0

'People Are Ignoring Symptoms, Not Getting Tested'

Currently, the infection caused by the variant is mild – with people experiencing fever, sore throat, cold, head ache, and body ache, among other symptoms.

"People with respiratory symptoms are either ignoring the symptoms as flu, or are approaching healthcare facilities and not getting themselves tested for COVID-19 even when asked to. This is despite the government and private labs being well-equipped to conduct COVID-19 PCR tests," Dr Sahu told FIT.

Menon told PTI that the relatively small number of people dying of COVID as of now seem to be those with pre-existing conditions. However, people are likely not being tested in sufficient numbers, as was the case during the Omicron wave, he added.

"As long as we keep careful track of mortality and severe cases, we should be able to track the disease well, even in the absence of large-scale testing," Menon to PTI.

"People with symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, headache, body ache, loss of smell or taste, breathlessness should get tested for corona," IMA added further, advising people to wash hands frequently, wear masks, avoid crowded places and poorly ventilated settings, and getting vaccinated.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Should India Consider Another Round of Precautionary Doses?

We do not know yet – as the efficacy of these booster doses have not been studied yet, especially in light of emerging variants.

"We should be looking at what the frequency of boosting ought to be and what we should be boosting with. For example, with mRNA vaccines, you get a really high antibody response and then it crashes. You inject again and antibodies go up to a high level and then it crashes. By the time you get to the fourth dose, your boosts are getting lower and lower each time," Dr Gagandeep Kang, virologist, told FIT, back in October 2022.

"However, with some of the adenovirus, vector vaccine, you actually see that the immune response takes a longer time to mature. It takes six months. So, assessing which combination of vaccine gives us the best immune response, both antibodies as well as cellular response, that last for a long time is really important," she added.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  India   Health   coronavirus 

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