New Delhi, April 3 (IANS) Covid is quietly making a mark with the potential to take the world again by a storm, even as many countries have eased restrictions-related to Covid and reduced testing and surveillance.
The increase in Covid cases has been witnessed by countries such as the UK – on an average of 76,000 new infections each day, Italy – an average of around 70,000 per day, China – nearly 5,000 cases, which is their highest ever, Thailand – daily average is more than 25,000, Israel – more than 14,000 new cases, Cyprus – daily average is around 4,908, France – more than 20,000 per day, Greece – more than 20,000 new infections, New Zealand – weekly average is 13,543, and Hong Kong – over 3,700 cases daily.
According to the EU Health Agency, several European countries – France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Belgium, and Austria – have also been registering increased infection cases.
The rise in new cases comes as the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Saturday issued a warning against a new mutant ‘XE’ variant of Omicron, that may be more transmissible than any strain of Covid-19 seen before.
‘XE’ is a mutant hybrid of the two previous versions of the Omicron variant, BA.1 and BA.2, which spread across the world.
According to reports, the new variant is 10 per cent more transmissible than the BA.2 subvariant, which is already the most contagious. While XE only accounts for a small fraction of the cases, its extremely high transmissibility could mean that it becomes the most dominant strain in the near future.
“The XE recombinant (BA.1-BA.2), was first detected in the UK on January 19 and less than 600 sequences have been reported and confirmed since,” said a recent WHO report.
“Early-day estimates indicate a community growth rate advantage of 10 percent as compared to BA.2, however, this finding requires further confirmation,” it added.
The global health agency in its latest Weekly Epidemiological Update also stated that over 10 million new cases have been reported – which is a decline of 14 per cent as compared to the previous week. But, during the same period, the number of new weekly deaths increased by 43 per cent to over 45,000 new deaths.
The highest number of new weekly cases were reported from South Korea (2,442,195), Germany (1,576,261), Vietnam (1,127,716), France (845,119), and Italy (503,932), while the highest new weekly deaths were reported from Chile (11,858), the US (5,367), India (4,525), Russia (2,859), and South Korea (2,471).
However, the WHO warned to interpret the trends “with caution as several countries are progressively changing their Covid-19 testing strategies”.
Despite a generalised decline in the rate of Covid testing observed in several counties, “the number of new weekly cases increased again in early to mid-March, indicating that the virus is currently circulating at very high levels”.
The WHO said that the significant reduction in SARS-CoV-2 testing by several countries is of concern as data is becoming progressively less representative, less timely, and less robust.
“This inhibits our collective ability to track where the virus is, how it is spreading and how it is evolving: information and analyses that remain critical to effectively end the acute phase of the pandemic,” the UN health agency said.
It warned that “decreases in testing, unless done judiciously as part of a strategy aimed at maintaining robust surveillance, may affect the capacity of countries to identify cases and enable their timely treatment or isolation, and implement other necessary control measures, with the consequent risk of increased spread of SARS-CoV-2”.