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WHO warns of new Covid-19 Variant Arcturus detected in over 20 countries

The spreading variant, which has been reported in at least 21 countries, the WHO said in a new report, is a sub-variant of Omicron, which emerged when two variants combined their genetic materials.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said it is closely monitoring a new variant of the coronavirus, XBB.1.16, dubbed Arcturus by some researchers.

The spreading variant, which has been reported in at least 21 countries, the WHO said in a new report, is a sub-variant of Omicron, which emerged when two variants combined their genetic materials.

“Mutations of spike protein (that make the virus penetrate and infect body cells) have been associated with decreased antibody neutralisation, increased transmissibility, and pathogenicity,” the WHO report reads.

Decreased antibody neutralisation means the effect of the vaccine or body immunity to stop infection with this new variant is reduced while pathogenicity means the ability of the virus to cause illness, according to available scientific information.

“However, so far reports do not indicate a rise in hospitalisations, ICU admissions, or deaths due to XBB.1.16,” the WHO added.

The Times of India, a news agency, reported that cases of infection among children under 12 years have increased rapidly since the new variant emerged.

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Health officials and experts at the Ministry of Health were not readily available to talk about the possible danger that the new variant may pose.

The country has seen a remarkable decline in Covid-19 infections and deaths since 2022, according to past reports from the ministry.

However, Dr Daniel Kyabayinze, the head of public health at the Health Ministry has revealed that the country is still vaccinating people against Covid-19 and promoting preventive measures.

“Covid-19 is still here with us but what has changed is that we have vaccinated at least 24 million Ugandans. We have enough vaccines,” he said.

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Since the outbreak of the virus in Uganda in 2020, 170,000 people have been infected, 3,632 died and more than 100,000 recovered from the virus.

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