Despite the fact that the government has yet to publicly acknowledge the presence of Omicron’s sub-variant XE in India, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya held a high-level meeting on Tuesday and asked authorities to intensify monitoring of new variants.
The minister presided over a review meeting with specialists and authorities to discuss the new variation, which is 10% more transmissible. He urged officials to regularly monitor the supply of essential drugs and medicines for Covid-19 treatment, citing a minor increase in cases in five states: Haryana, Delhi, Maharashtra, Mizoram, and Kerala.
The health ministry had been quiet on XE all this while. It denied claims that one case was discovered in Maharashtra and remained silent when another was reported from Gujarat. The minister stated in a tweet that he held a discussion with specialists on the ‘new XE variant’ and the advent of new variations.
Dr VK Paul, Member (Health), NITI Ayog, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, Dr Randip Guleria (Director, AIIMS), Dr Balrama Bhargava (Director General, ICMR), Dr N K Arora (chief of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation in India), and senior health ministry officials attended the meeting.
The XE strain is a cross between the BA.1 and BA.2 strains of Omicron. It has caused worry across the world, including in India, where all Covid-related restrictions have been eliminated. Some states have even made masks optional. The World Health Organization has not yet designated XE as a variation of concern. However, the global body has stated that more validation is required.
Mandaviya emphasised that the vaccination campaign must go at full speed. He also emphasised that India has a far lower total mortality rate than many Western countries.