Covid-19 cases continue to witness a spike in India, with the country reporting 2,994 new infections in the last 24 hours, according to the Union health ministry’s latest data. With this, the number of active cases in the country has increased to 16,354, while the overall Covid-19 tally has reached 4.47 crore (4,47,18,781).
India witnessed the ‘highest proportional increase’ of new COVID cases in the Southeast Asia Region, according to the World Health Organisation’s latest data for February 27 to March 26, 2023. According to WHO, XBB.1.16, the new Omicron variant, is responsible for the spike in cases in India.
The global agency said it is closely tracking one variant of interest (VOI) – XBB.1.5 – and six variants under monitoring (VUMs).
SARS-CoV-2 continues to evolve. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, multiple variants of concern (VOCs) and variants of interest (VOIs) have been designated by WHO based on their assessed potential for expansion and replacement of prior variants, for causing new waves with increased circulation, and for the need for adjustments to public health actions.
WHO classifies global SARS-CoV-2 variants VOC), VOI, or VUM categories depending on their transmissibility and severity among other factors.
Variant of Interest (VOI)
As per WHO’s latest definition, a VOI is a SARS-CoV-2 variant with genetic changes that are predicted or known to affect virus characteristics such as transmissibility, virulence, antibody evasion, susceptibility to therapeutics and detectability; and identified to have a growth advantage over other circulating variants in more than one WHO region with increasing relative prevalence alongside an increasing number of cases over time, or other apparent epidemiological impacts to suggest an emerging risk to global public health.
Omicron BQ.1 (BA.5 descendent)
Omicron BA.2.75 (BA.2 descendent)
Omicron XBB (BA.2.10.1 / BA.2.75 descendent)
Omicron XBB.1.5 (BA.2.10.1 / BA.2.75 descendent) new VOI
Variant of Concern (VOC)
As per WHO, the VOC is a SARS-CoV-2 variant that meets the definition of a VOI and, through a risk assessment, conducted by WHO TAG-VE, and determined to be associated with a moderate or high level of confidence, meets at least one of the following criteria when compared with other variants-
• Detrimental change in clinical disease severity; OR
• Change in COVID-19 epidemiology causing substantial impact on the ability of health systems to provide care to patients with COVID-19 or other illnesses and therefore requiring major public health interventions; OR
• Significant decrease in the effectiveness of available vaccines in protecting against severe disease.
Variants under monitoring (VUM)
These additional variants of SARS-CoV-2 have been detected as signals through epidemic intelligence, rules-based genomic variant screening, or preliminary scientific evidence.
There is some indication that they could have properties similar to those of a VOC, but the evidence is weak.
Omicron XBB.1.16. XBB.1.16 was added to this list on March 22.
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