New ‘Arcturus’ Covid variant reported in UK – India to see face masks return

A new strain of COVID-19 has placed India on red alert due to exploding infection rates. Dubbed ‘Arcturus’, the sub-variant of Omicron is thought to be the most contagious strain yet. So far 50 cases of Arcturus, also known as XBB.1.16, have been reported in the UK.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is currently monitoring the strain.

Doctor Maria Van Kerkhove, Covid technical lead for the WHO, explained: “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.

“It has one additional mutation in the spike protein which in lab studies shows increased infectivity as well as potential increased pathogenicity.”

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She also revealed that Arcturus had already been detected in other countries but so far there had been no reported changes in how severe infections are.

In its final variant report last month the UK Health and Security Agency said Arcturus was already in the UK.

And data collected from variant trackers report that the UK has now sequenced almost 50 samples of Arcturus.

India’s ministry of health has been conducting mock drills this week to determine the impact of a potential influx of patients on the nation’s hospitals.

Some states have now re-introduced face masks in public settings, for the first time in a year.

Health officials have also told areas to increase testing for the virus.

Officials have also told states to ramp up testing for the virus.

It is thought India suffered almost five million excess deaths when the Delta wave hit in 2021, with hospitals overwhelmed by patients and even running out of oxygen.

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