As the World Health Organisation (WHO) raised alarm over new Covid variant Arcturus, or XBB.1.16 as it is clinically referred to, the strain has been found so far in 22 countries, including Singapore, Australia, the UK and the US. The Covid subvariant is skyrocketing infections, prompting health officials to reintroduce mandatory mask-wearing measures.
The variant was first detected in January following which its spread has increased. WHO has termed the variant of concern as the world health body monitors the new strain. The new variant could be 1.2 times more infectious than the Omicron variant, according to a study by the University of Tokyo published on the biology research website bioRxiv.
The main symptoms include shortness of breath, cough and conjunctivitis and sticky eyes in some cases.
"Yes, it's true that there seems to be a rise in conjunctivitis in children in India, with a certain type of conjunctivitis associated with viral infections," Dr Stephen Griffin, associate professor in virology at the University of Leeds told The Mirror.
“I think there needs to be more studies based on that, but certainly observationally it seems to be happening,” he added. Conjunctivitis is an eye infection that causes redness, itchiness and swelling in the eyes. It has previously been reported as a symptom of Covid but not in most cases.
There is no evidence that the strain causes more severe Covid symptoms in vaccinated people, Dr Stephen Griffin said.
“It's really hard to work out which one becomes dominant over time because they're all having to compete with each other, as well as thrive. They're not becoming dominant as quickly as we've seen in the past, just because there's so much competition around,” he said.