Arcturus may be causing a spike in Covid cases in Britain, according to experts who warn ‘we’re not out of the woods yet’.
The Omicron spin-off – named XBB.1.16 – is believed to be the most infectious species to date.
It has caused an outbreak of infections in India over the past month, with some of the hardest-hit states choosing to bring back face masks to control its rapid spread and hospitals on high alert.
Frontline doctors claim to have seen a rise in infected children with conjunctivitis, which suggests it causes slightly different symptoms than other variants.
MailOnline revealed yesterday that the variant, which is not thought to be more deadly than other types, is already in Britain.
A separate Covid-surveillance project, run by health technology company ZOE, found that rates have fallen since March. It expects around 1.26 million people in the UK to have symptoms of Covid as of yesterday, down nearly 300,000 from the 1.49 million reported at the end of March.
The current levels are in line with those detected in mid-January, when cases were falling from a winter peak of around 1.7 million, according to ZOE data. The latest Covid wave appears to have peaked at 2.5 million infections in England at the end of December
There have been nearly 50 cases since the strain was first detected in March.
Infection rates have been declining since then, though scientists warn that may change.
Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline: ‘I suspect we will see a wave of infections of this type.
“I suspect it will cause a large wave, perhaps not as strong as the one we just had in the UK.”
What is Arcturus and should we be concerned?
A new type of Covid virus dubbed ‘Arcturus’ has raised some concern after causing an increase in the number of cases in India.
What is “Arcturus”?
“Arcturus” is the name given to Omicron subvariant XBB.1.16.
It is a spin-off strain, similar to the one in the Kraken variant (XBB.1.5).
Where was it spotted?
The disease emerged in March and has since been detected in 22 countries, but the largest outbreak to date has been in India.
Why did he raise concern?
Arcturus has led to an increase in the number of cases in India with the number of infections increasing 13-fold over the past month.
This has prompted the country’s health authorities to conduct drills in hospitals and re-enforce mask mandates in some areas.
Is it dangerous?
‘Arcturus’ contains mutations in the spike protein that the Word Health Organization says could increase its ability to infect people as well as trigger disease.
Japanese researchers have suggested that it is 1.2 times more infectious than the already highly pathogenic Kraken.
However, there is no evidence that it increases the severity of the disease.
But the high number of cases could put health services under strain.
Do vaccines still work?
Early results indicate that ‘Arcturus’ has no increased ability to evade protection from vaccines compared to other Omicron spin-offs.
As a result, he added, it “will likely” not add additional pressure to the struggling NHS, which has struggled throughout the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist from the University of Warwick, told The Independent: ‘We have to keep an eye on that.
These kinds of things highlight the importance of genetic monitoring but a lot of countries including ours have let our guard down a bit.
“And we can’t be sure what variants are present and what level of infection they cause until we see a significant outbreak.”
The government has repeatedly insisted it will never return to pandemic-era measures unless a doomsday variant emerges.
Senior scientists cautioned that they do not expect the variant to be more deadly than the other species currently circulating, which cause a milder flu-like illness.
The latest Covid wave in England appears to have peaked at the end of December, when 2.5 million people were thought to have been infected.
Although there was a slight rebound a few weeks ago which now seems to have died down.
Officials are no longer tracking the spread of the virus in the same way they used to, as part of the government’s pre-pandemic normality.
Variance tracking capabilities have also been cut back.
The only remaining form of monitoring is NHS hospital data showing 6,829 beds are currently occupied by confirmed Covid patients, as of 6 April.
A separate Covid-surveillance project, run by health technology company ZOE, found that rates have fallen since March.
It predicts that around 1.26 million people in the UK have symptoms of Covid as of yesterday, Down nearly 300,000 from the 1.49 million reported at the end of March.
The current levels are in line with those detected in mid-January, when cases were falling from a winter peak of around 1.7 million, according to ZOE data.
In India, Arcturus alone is believed to have caused a 13-fold increase in the number of cases within a month.
India’s health ministry reported 10,158 new COVID cases today alone, nearly double the number (5,335) reported a week earlier, on April 6.
Yesterday, Maharashtra and Delhi also reported more than 1,000 daily cases, for the first time this year.
These Covid cases could include those who tested positive while unwell at home as well as in hospital.
Separate figures from the Our World in Data platform run by the University of Oxford show the number of new daily cases reached 5,555 two days earlier on April 11, compared with 353 recorded one month earlier.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is currently monitoring Arcturus, also known as XBB.1.16, which was first detected in late January as officials said it had some worrisome mutations.
The UK Health and Security Agency said the variant was already in the UK in its final variant report released last month.
Symptoms of COVID-19 are usually known to include a high fever, cough, cold, and loss of taste or smell.
But Vipin Vashishtha, consultant pediatrician at Mangla Hospital and Research Center and former official of the Indian Academy of Pediatrics, revealed that symptoms affecting children’s eyes have seen a sudden increase.
Vipin Vashishtha, Consultant Pediatrician at Mangla Hospital & Research Center and former organizer of the Indian Academy of Pediatrics, revealed that symptoms affecting children’s eyes have seen a sudden surge.
ONS analysts estimate that nearly 1.7 million Britons were carrying the virus on any given day in the week ending 13 March. This is a jump of nearly 14 percent from the previous week.
“It seems that a childlike phenotype is emerging,” he wrote on Twitter.
He is now seeing a rise in cases involving ‘itchy’ conjunctivitis or ‘sticky eyes’, a symptom not seen during previous waves of Covid.
Richard Rethinger, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the nonprofit research institute RTI International, based in the US, He also told Fortune magazine that he had heard such reports.
but He noted that “it may be too early to tell” whether the virus’s set of symptoms has really changed.
Currently, there are “a lot of blob stories about pediatric conjunctivitis in India,” added Raj Rajanarayanan, assistant dean for research and associate professor at New York Institute of Technology.
Like similar new Covid variants, online virus trackers have decided to call XBB.1.16 “Arcturus” after a pattern of naming new strains after mythical entities.
Arcturus means “guardian of the bear” and is associated with the constellation called Ursa Major.