Warning as new Covid variant 'Arcturus' outstrips dominant Omicron strains sparking fresh surge | The Sun

A NEW "more infectious" Covid variant is driving a fresh surge of cases, health officials warn.

It comes just as cases of the bug have started to fall globally.

"Arcturus", a spin-off of Omicron, is currently tearing through India, as hospitals are put on red alert and compulsory face masks are reintroduced.

Experts believe the new XBB.1.16 strain is driving the latest wave of cases which have risen 13-fold in the last month.

It's thought to be more infectious that the XBB.1.5 'Kraken' bug.

But more severe illness hasn’t been found in people infected with the new variant.

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Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Covid technical lead, said: “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.”

Dr Van Kerkhove added that while XBB.1.16 had been detected in other countries most sequences were from India where it had replaced other variants.

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This week, case numbers throughout India rose by 3,122 in a single day.

It comes as the country's ministry of health recorded 40,215 active Covid infections on 12 April.

Officials are now urging states to increase testing for the virus.

The Omicron strain has already been found to be milder than others that came before it.

And the mammoth rollout of vaccines across the UK has meant many already have some level of protection from the bug.

WHO reported that over 500,000 new Covid cases and more than 2,000 Covid-related deaths were reported from April 3 to April 10, a decrease of 31 per cent and 57 per cent, respectively, from the previous 7 days.

How to protect yourself

Five million vulnerable Brits are eligible for a spring Covid vaccine to keep them out of hospital.

NHS vaccination director Steve Russell said: “We are learning to live with Covid but it is still really important that those at greatest risk come forward and boost their protection.

“There are still around 8,000 people in hospital with Covid, according to the latest data.

“If you are over 75 or you have a weakened immune system, please book a vaccine this spring so you can enjoy summer with peace of mind.”

For those who are not eligible, experts have previously urged people to stay home when unwell and wear a face covering if you must go out.

What are the symptoms of XBB.1.6?

No official data has come out regarding infection signs of the new variant, but as an off-shoot of Omicron, many of its early symptoms should be similar to previous versions of the strain.

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According to the Zoe symptom app, these include:

  • runny nose
  • headache
  • fatigue (mild or severe)
  • sneezing
  • sore throat

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