A new variant of Covid-19 dubbed ‘Arcturus’ is behind a fresh surge of infections in India.

The Omicron sub-variant XBB.1.16 strain is causing havoc in the country where cases have soared 13-fold in the last month.

India’s health ministry launched mock drills this week in an attempt to see if hospitals are prepared to deal with a possible influx of patients following the rise in cases.

Wearing face coverings in public has been made compulsory again in some states, being the first time in more than a year for some.

One example is the southern state of Kerela where Health Minister Veena George reintroduced masks for the elderly, pregnant women, and those with underlying conditions.

This week, case numbers throughout India rose by 3,122 in a single day.

Health workers wearing face masks in April as they walk out of a government hospital in Chennai
AFP via Getty Images)

It comes as the country’s Ministry of Health recorded 40,215 active Covid infections on April 12.

Officials are now urging states to increase testing for the virus.

Figures from Our World in Data, run by Oxford University, show how new daily cases reached 3,108 on April 4 – 242 more than the previous month.

The Arcturus strain was first detected in late January and is currently being monitored by the World Health Organization (WHO), with officials noting some mutations of concern.

‘Arcturus’ is a highly transmissible Covid variant eyed by the WHO
WHO COVID-19 Dashboard)

“We haven’t seen a change in severity in individuals or in populations but that’s why we have these systems in place,” said the WHO’s Covid technical lead Dr Maria Van Kerkhove.

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

While Arcturus had been found in other countries, most cases were from India where it had overtaken other variants, Dr Van Kerkhove explained.

But there has been no reported change in the severity of disease among those infected by the variant.

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