‘It is still important to maintain social distancing in public places and use masks’.
New Delhi: Delhi is witnessing a steady increase in the number of daily Covid-19 positive cases despite the national capital being over 90% fully vaccinated, suggesting that the new variant of Covid-19–XE–is responsible for causing re-infection. However, doctors and scientists say that the rise could be due to the laxity in Covid-19 inappropriate behaviour.
Dr Neetu Jain, PSRI Hospital Senior consultant, Pulmonology, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine, told The Sunday Guardian that although vaccination has helped tremendously in mitigating the severity of Covid, it is still important to maintain necessary social distancing in public places and use masks as the virus is here to stay. “Most people have got vaccinated but still we must not take it easy. We must continue wearing masks as DDMA (Delhi Disaster Management Authority) has made it mandatory once again. People are becoming lax with Covid appropriate behaviour, so making mask mandatory is the step in right direction.”
This new XE variant is a combination of the sub-variants of corona virus that was discovered in South Africa. It first surfaced in Gujarat and Maharashtra in India. The symptoms of the new XE variant are the same as Covid-19 which include fever, cough, and tiredness, say experts. It is no different from the corona virus. Its symptoms are the same as of the earlier variants of Covid-19, including irritation in throat that could lead to coughing besides fever, tiredness and exhaustion.
Doctors say that although the XE variant is highly transmissible like its predecessor, the Delta and Omicron variants, this new variant is mild and may not be fatal as it just impacts the upper tracts of the lungs, unlike the Delta which infects the entire lungs leading to pneumonia and serious lung impairment. Medical professionals also point out that the XE variant is extremely “sneaky”, which means that it could easily escape the traditional swap test or the RT-PCR test and one has to get doubly checked to be sure if they are actually infected with this new variant of Covid-19. The Delhi government has also made genome sequencing of almost 50% of the collected swab samples compulsory to study if the recent rise in the number of positive cases in Delhi due to the spread of the XE variant of Covid-19.
Earlier this year, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur had predicted that India could expect the fourth Covid wave around middle of June which could well last for about two months and peak during August mid onwards. Dr Manav Manchanda of Asian Hospital also believes that the country is witnessing the rise of Covid-19 as part of the possible fourth wave. Speaking to The Sunday Guardian, Dr Manchanda said, “After three waves with Delta and Omicron, is this the start of the fourth wave with the XE variant? We don’t yet know, but this could possibly be the beginning. However, so far, the symptoms seem to be mild and we can expect that this variant is also like the Omicron which would not require hospitalisation with most patients.”
The Union Health Ministry has also recently opened booster dose for all adults in India with a gap of nine months, in order to provide better immunity to the Indian population. The Health Ministry was also successful in reducing the cost of the available vaccines in India, so that it could become available to every citizen in India. The Delhi government on the other hand has already announced that the booster dose for all residents in Delhi would be given free of cost, this to mitigate the risk of the spread of the XE variant and encourage people to take the booster jab.
Doctors say that the role of booster dose is very important and their benefit cannot be subserved. Dr Archana Dhawan Bajaj, Gynecologist, Obstetrician & IVF Expert, with Nurture Clinic told The Sunday Guardian that pregnant women should also be treated as priority cases as they are also high risk groups. “Women need to be more alert during pregnancy. There is a chance that you may not be infected and affect your new born, but why take a chance. Pregnant women need to take extra care,” Dr Dhawan said.