Home/ News / India/  XBB.1.16 variant likely a 'new kid on the block', says Dr Randeep Guleria

Amid the rise in number of Covid cases in over four months in the country, former AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria said on 22 March that the new XBB.1.16 variant could be driving the recent rise. However, he emphasised there was no need for panic as long it does not cause severe illness and deaths.

According to him, new variants will keep coming as the virus keeps on mutating over the time and the XBB 1.16 is sort of a 'new kid on the block'.

"... As long as they don't lead to severe illness, hospitalisation and deaths, it is alright because it helps in giving some degree of immunity to the population if they have mild illness," the renowned pulmonologist said.

ALSO READ: India logs 699 Covid cases, 2 deaths in one day, govt monitoring new variant

Guleria's comments arrived on the day Prime Minister Narendra Modi a high-level meeting to review the Covid situation and also took stock of the public health preparedness.

As per the Union Health Ministry data updated on Wednesday, India recorded 1,134 new coronavirus cases, the highest in 138 days, while the active cases increased to 7,026. Also, the death toll has climbed to 5,30,813 with five deaths.

The virus evolves over time, and this happens both with Covid and influenza, and this is what is called an antigenic drift, According to Dr Guleria.

It will gradually evolve, mutate a little bit and new variants will emerge, he added.

"If we remember when we had the Covid outbreak, it started off with Alpha, Beta, Gamma Delta and Omicron variants," he said.

"So the virus kept on changing. Luckily, if we look at what has happened in the last one year, we have got variants which are basically sub-lineages of Omicron only. So it seems the virus has stabilized a little bit, it is not changing as rapidly as it was in the past," Dr Guleria said.

On being asked if XBB 1.16 has the potential to drive a fresh wave of cases in the next few days, he said, "You may see a surge in number of cases but then they may be underreported as initially people were very concerned and would get themselves tested."

"Now even if they have flu-like symptoms, most people don't get themselves tested. Some use the rapid antigen test, and even if they are positive they do not report it. So the number we are actually reporting may be less than the actual number in the community," he said.

Dr Guleria advised that those who test positive must report the data because that helps policy makers and government to actually to know the number of cases and take a decision and plan a strategy.

"So even if we see surge, there is no need to worry, as long it does not translate into hospitalization and deaths it is alright," he said.

With PTI inputs.

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Updated: 22 Mar 2023, 11:31 PM IST
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