True origins ‘may never be revealed’ as new variant cases soar in India

True origins ‘may never be revealed’ as new variant cases soar in India

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We may never know the true origins of Covid-19, a Chinese doctor who helped lead the country’s pandemic response has said as cases of the new variant soar in India.

Dr. George Fu Gao told The Telegraph he is “not optimistic” the origin of the virus will ever be known.

“It’s too sensitive; too politicized,” he said, adding: “We must focus on science.”

Dr Goa made the comments Rhodes Policy Summit on pandemic preparedness in London on Friday, also attended by former prime minister Tony Blair.

The Dr was the leader of the Chinese Center for Disease Control when the Covid-19 virus first emerged in 2019.

He added: “there is no evidence which animals… the virus comes [from]”.

It comes as a new coronavirus strain dubbed Arcturus appears to be driving a surge in Covid-19 cases in India, prompting the country to resume vaccine production and sparking fears it could lead to a rise in cases in the UK and elsewhere.

India on Friday recorded 11,109 new Covid infections, the biggest jump in almost a year.

The symptoms of the variant include high fever, cough, and “itchy” conjunctivitis or pinkeye.

Key Points

  • What are the symptoms of the new Covid variant?

  • How many cases of the new variant are in the UK?

  • What do we know about the new Covid variant?

  • Doctors urge caution: ‘This is one to watch’

What are the symptoms of the new Covid variant?

Friday 14 April 2023 08:31 , Alisha Rahman Sarkar

The XBB.1.16 strain, a sub-variant of Omicron, has been found in 22 countries, including Singapore, Australia, the UK and the US.

The variant, dubbed Arcturus, is believed to be responsible for an uptick in infections in India, leading to the government adopting new measures to stop its spread.

The spread of the strain, first detected in late January, is worrying experts, as it seems to exhibit unique symptoms in children, one of which is conjunctivitis.

Vipin Vashishtha, a paediatrician and former head of the Indian Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Immunization tweeted that “an infantile phenotype” of the variant seems to be emerging.

The symptoms of the variant include high fever, cough, and “itchy” conjunctivitis or pinkeye, he said.

Stuti Mishra reports.

Latest Covid variant sweeping India appears to have this new symptom

We may never know the true origins of Covid, leading Chinese doctors say

11:59 , Martha Mchardy

We may never know the true origins of Covid-19, a Chinese doctor who helped lead the country’s pandemic response has said.

Dr. George Fu Gao told The Telegraph he is “not optimistic” the origin of the virus will ever be known.

“It’s too sensitive; too politicized,” he said, adding: “We must focus on science.”

Dr Goa made the comments Rhodes Policy Summit on pandemic preparedness in London on Friday, also attended by former prime minister Tony Blair.

The Dr was the leader of the Chinese Center for Disease Control when the Covid-19 virus first emerged in 2019.

He added: “there is no evidence which animals… the virus comes [from]”.

Indonesia detects two cases linked to Arcturus variant

Friday 14 April 2023 14:30 , Alisha Rahman Sarkar

Indonesia yesterday said it had detected two cases of the Arcturus variant of coronavirus in the country.

“So far, there are two cases (of Arcturus) that have been found,” confirmed health ministry spokesperson Mohammad Syahril in Jakarta.

The patients, whose infections were detected based on genome sequencing in the last week of March, experienced mild symptoms, officials said.

One of the patients, a 30-year-old woman, had no history of overseas travel and had received the first booster Covid-19 vaccine, CNN Indonesia reported.

Covid cases rising in Singapore

Friday 14 April 2023 14:00 , Alisha Rahman Sarkar

Singapore’s Covid-19 infections almost doubled in the final week of March to the highest this year, according to the federal health ministry.

Health minister Ong Ye Kung said that about three in 10 of the current cases were reinfections. The estimated number of daily infections rose from about 1,400 a month ago to 4,000 last week.

However, the minister assured that there is no evidence of any of the current XBB strains causing more severe illness.

No evidence to prove Covid came from animals, says the ex-head of China CDC

Friday 14 April 2023 13:30 , Alisha Rahman Sarkar

There is no evidence as yet that proves the Covid-19-causing virus came from animals, George Gao, former head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said today.

Mr Gao, who was speaking at a London summit on preparing for pandemics, was the head of the agency when Covid was first detected in Wuhan in China at the end of 2019.

“Even now, people think some animal is the host or reservoir,” he said. “Cut a long story short, there is no evidence which animals where the virus comes from.”

New Covid variant Arcturus likely 1.2 times more infectious

Friday 14 April 2023 13:00 , Alisha Rahman Sarkar

The new variant of coronavirus, dubbed as Arcturus, is reportedly 1.2 times more infectious than the Kraken variant, according to a study by the University of Tokyo published on the biology research website bioRxiv.

Arcturus has been reported in several states in the US, including California, Washington, New Jersey, New York, Virginia and Texas, New York Post reported.

“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,” Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead, said in late March.

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

Worst areas in UK for Covid cases amid fears over new variant

Friday 14 April 2023 12:30 , Alisha Rahman Sarkar

England’s North East currently has the highest Covid infection rate of any UK region, according to new figures from the Zoe Health Study app.

Nearly 1.25 million people are currently thought to have symptomatic coronavirus in the UK, according to the Zoe Covid study, whose estimates are based on users’ self-reporting symptoms and test results.

This is down from a recent peak of nearly 1.5 million suspected symptomatic infections a fortnight ago, which itself was below the previous highs of more than 1.6 million over New Year and in mid-October.

Andy Gregory has more.

Mapped: Worst areas in UK for Covid cases amid fears over new variant

India restarts Covid vaccine production

Friday 14 April 2023 12:00 , Alisha Rahman Sarkar

India is slimming up its vaccine production following a rapid surge in Covid-19 cases driven by a new subvariant dubbed Arcturus.

Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, has restarted the manufacture of Covid-19 vaccines, the chief executive Adar Poonawalla said.

The Pune-based company produces AstraZeneca vaccines under the Covishield label, which constitutes at least 70 per cent of the Covid vaccines administered in the country.

“Just as a precaution, we have done it so that people have Covishield as a choice if they want it,” Mr Poonawalla told the Press Trust of India.

More here.

India restarts Covid vaccine production as new infections soar 30% in one day

How many cases of the new variant are in the UK?

Friday 14 April 2023 11:30 , Alisha Rahman Sarkar

A new Covid strain dubbed Arcturus which is driving a surge of infections in India has been detected in the UK.

Although Arcturus has been detected in the UK, it is not spreading on the same scale – with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) saying that 66 cases have been recorded up to 11 April.

Comparatively, 57,842 overall Covid infections were recorded in the week up to Thursday, a 20 per cent drop from the previous seven days.

Eleanor Noyce reports.

Arcturus: How many cases of the new variant are in the UK?

Covid no longer: Leading cause of death in England and Wales revealed

Friday 14 April 2023 11:00 , Alisha Rahman Sarkar

Covid-19 has dropped out of the top five leading causes of death in England and Wales for the first time since the start of the pandemic, figures show.

Coronavirus was recorded as the main cause of death for 22,454 people in 2022, or 3.9 per cent of all registered deaths, making it the sixth leading cause overall.

In both 2020 and 2021 Covid-19 was the leading cause of death, with 73,766 deaths (12.1 per cent of the total) and 67,350 (11.5 per cent) respectively.

More here.

Covid no longer: Leading cause of death in England and Wales revealed

World’s largest vaccine maker ramps up production

Friday 14 April 2023 10:18 , Alisha Rahman Sarkar

Adar Poonawalla, the chief executive of Serum Institute of India (SII) told The Independents in a statement that the company has “summed up the production of the Covid-19 vaccine, Covishield, in response to the increasing number of SARS-CoV-2 virus infections.”

“The company also has six million doses of the Covovax vaccine, which are easily available to private hospitals depending on demand and can also be used as heterologous booster doses,” he added.

“The company has taken this precautionary measure to ensure that people have the option of Covishield if they choose.”

Stuti Mishra reports.

Doctors urge caution: ‘This is one to watch’

Friday 14 April 2023 09:40 , Alisha Rahman Sarkar

Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert based at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline that the variant is unlikely to cause a big wave.

“I suspect we will see a wave of infections with this variant,” Professor Hunter said. “I doubt it will cause a big wave, probably not even as great as the one we have just had in the UK.”

Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist from the University of Warwick, told The Independents that the cases need to be monitored.

“These kinds of things highlight the importance of genomic surveillance but a lot of countries including our own have let our guards down a bit.

“And we can’t be sure what variants are around and what level of infection they are causing until we see a significant outbreak.”

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on Covid, said, “this is one to watch”. She added that health experts haven’t seen “a change in severity in individuals or in populations”.

India records highest number of cases in months

Friday 14 April 2023 09:30 , Alisha Rahman Sarkar

India on Friday recorded 11,109 new Covid infections, the biggest rise in cases for almost a year. The country currently has 49,622 active cases, according to the federal health ministry.

The southern state of Kerala reported 3,420 cases, while the capital Delhi and Maharashtra in the west logged 1,159 and 1,115 cases respectively.

There were 29 Covid-related deaths recorded in 24 hours.

Fears new ‘Arcturus’ Covid variant could become dominant in UK

Friday 14 April 2023 08:52 , Alisha Rahman Sarkar

Virologist Dr Stephen Griffin from the University of Leeds said Arcturus is growing at a faster rate than other variants and is “rapidly outcompeting” others in India.

He added that the new variant, which is now spreading globally, is particularly concerning because of limitations in genomic sequencing and tracking, leaving the UK “completely in the dark” after it stopped publishing ONS Covid case figures last month.

So far in the UK, Arcturus accounts for just 0.4 per cent of cases, according to the GISAID virus sequencing database – but that proportion is expected to increase considerably.

“Arcturus has a growth advantage of about 1.2 compared to what we’ve had recently,” Dr. Griffin told The Independents.

“It’s conceivable that it could outcompete what we’ve had recently but there are other variants in the mix so it’s hard to know which one will become dominant.”

Thomas Kingsley reports.

Fears new ‘Arcturus’ Covid variant could become dominant in UK

Friday April 14, 2023 08:01 , Alisha Rahman Sarkar

welcome to The Independent’s live blog tracking the uptick in Covid-19 cases in India and across the world.

Videos | What is the new Covid variant causing a surge in cases?

Friday 14 April 2023 12:20 , Alisha Rahman Sarkar

The new Covid strain, Arcturus, is already causing a surge of cases in India, and it’s thought to be 1.2 times more contagious than the last Omicron subvariant.

It’s been detected in 22 countries so far including the UK and US, with India reporting 49,622 active Covid cases on 14 April – prompting strict measures to be brought back.

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