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Published: 09:15, October 25, 2022 | Updated: 17:43, October 25, 2022
Report: Omicron variant XBB.3 feared to dominate in India
By Agencies
Published:09:15, October 25, 2022 Updated:17:43, October 25, 2022 By Agencies

People wearing masks as a precaution against the coronavirus walk through a market in New Delhi, India, Aug 11, 2022. (ALTAF QADRI / AP)

SYDNEY / MANILA / HANOI / SINGAPORE / YANGON / VIENTIANE / SEOUL / WELLINGTON / NEW DELHI / KUALA LUMPUR / ISLAMABAD - The Omicron sub-variant XBB, particularly XBB.3, is likely to be the dominant strain of the COVID-19 virus in India within a month, reported The Times of India newspaper on Tuesday citing scientists.

According to the report, there were 71 confirmed cases of XBB-driven COVID-19 infection in India in the beginning of this month, and the number jumped to 136 by Oct. 23. "On Monday the case count was 235," it added.

It quoted a senior scientist with the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) as saying that the XBB.3 strain is currently leading the pack in India "with maximum cases."

According to the report, the eastern state of West Bengal has reported the highest number of such infections, at 103, in the South Asian country.

"Authorities have called for caution. In Maharashtra the health department has warned that a possible XBB-led spike may peak by mid-November," added the report.

According to a member of the national COVID-19 task force Dr. Sanjay Pujari, the genomic surveillance must continue. "Impact of these sub-variants on illness severity needs to be explored and (COVID-19 vaccine) booster uptake, at least for those at higher risk, needs to improve," he added.

The XBB variant was first detected in August and the World Health Organization has described it as among the most immune-evasive versions of the COVID-19 virus yet. It is being closely monitored by countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

ALSO READ: Indian PM says COVID-19 impact to linger

Meanwhile, India's daily COVID-19 caseload Tuesday fell below the 1,000 mark, officials said.

According to federal health ministry data released on Tuesday morning, 862 new cases of COVID-19 were reported during the past 24 hours in the South Asian country, taking the total tally to 44,644,938.

The cases reported on Tuesday mark a decrease in comparison to the daily caseload of 1,334 on Monday.

The country also logged three new COVID-19 related deaths during the past 24 hours, taking the death toll to 528,980 since the beginning of the pandemic, the ministry said.

The Coral Princess cruise ship is seen docked at the International Terminal on Circular Quay in Sydney on July 13, 2022.  About 100 people on board Coral Princess, the first large international cruiser to enter the waters of the state of Western Australia in two years, test positive for COVID-19, local media reports on Oct 24, 2022. (MUHAMMAD FAROOQ / AFP)

Australia

About 100 people on board Coral Princess, the first large international cruiser to enter the waters of the state of Western Australia (WA) in two years, tested positive for COVID-19, local media reported.

The cruise ship, which has the capacity of carrying nearly 2,000 passengers, was scheduled to stop at several coastal regions of the state before returning to Sydney next month.

A WA Health spokesperson said the passengers and crew aboard the vessel had tested positive for COVID-19, the national broadcaster ABC news reported late on Monday.

"WA Health has been advised of passengers and crew testing positive for COVID-19, and this evolving situation is being managed by the vessel operator according to its COVID-19 plan," the spokesperson said.

Local newspaper the Western Australian said it is believed there are up to 100 cases of COVID-19 aboard.

Western Australia allowed large international cruise liners to return to some port destinations from Oct 1 after the federal government lifted the ban on international large cruise ships in April.

But all cruise ships operating in WA are required to have a COVID-19 management plan in place, and crew and passengers will be required to be double dose vaccinated and have received a third dose, if eligible.

Under the state's current COVID-19 protocols, those who tested positive for the virus are recommended to isolate for a minimum of five days.

ABC news said a spokesperson for the company operating the vessel said a rise in COVID-19 cases aboard was being "managed effectively" in accordance with national and state protocols.

ALSO READ: Vietnam sees lowest daily count of COVID-19 cases in a year

Staff check a client at a drive-through COVID-19 testing clinic at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia on Jan 8, 2022. (MARK BAKER / AP)

In another development, immunoglobulin A (IgA) contributed to the neutralizing antibody response of wild-type COVID-19 virus, according to an Australian study published in the Clinical and Translational Immunology journal.

Conducted by researchers from Australia's Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute), the University of Melbourne and Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, the study published on Sunday compared different antibody responses to the virus in blood serum from 41 people who had recovered from COVID-19.

"In simple terms, we've deconstructed blood in our lab to measure its ability to smother the virus and to activate immune cells to kill SARS-CoV-2," said Samantha Davis, lead author and PhD researcher at the Doherty Institute.

"While we knew that IgG (Immunoglobulin G) is very important in the antibody response to clear the virus, we discovered that IgA also plays a key role in neutralizing it in most people," Davis noted.

According to a statement by the Doherty Institute on Monday, following COVID-19 infection, virus-specific antibodies are generated, which can both neutralize the virus and clear the infection. While much has been said about the importance of IgG antibodies for protection and control of the COVID-19 virus, the role of IgA antibodies has been relatively neglected throughout the pandemic.

Amy Chung, co-author and laboratory head of the Doherty Institute, said the new study opened door to new approaches for the development of future vaccines against COVID-19.

"Our findings are particularly important as IgA is the most abundant antibody present in the mucosa of our respiratory tract, which is the main route of virus infection," said Chung. "This means if we're able to specifically make these antibodies at these vulnerable sites, we now know that we can induce a robust immune response to protect against the virus."

Researchers also pointed out that the convalescent IgA neutralizing response is highly heterogenous between individuals. Dissecting the IgA response in the context of vaccination and to variants of concern is essential to further understanding the antibody in a protective polyclonal antibody response, according to the study.

A man receives a dose of China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Vientiane, Laos, June 17, 2021. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

Laos

The Lao Health Ministry called on people to get a booster shot of COVID-19 to strengthen their immunity as there is a high risk of a further outbreak.

Head of the Vaccine Preventable Disease Division under the ministry Kongxay Phounphenghack told a press conference in the Lao capital Vientiane on Monday that many people are reluctant to have a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine because they believe it is unnecessary.

However, a booster vaccination offers significant added protection against the virus, he added.

The health authorities are warning everyone in Laos to be alert as there is a high risk of a further outbreak, given that a large number of Lao workers are returning from other countries, where COVID-19 infections are spiraling.

Statistics show that at least 15 percent of returning workers are carrying the virus. This poses the threat of a widespread outbreak in Laos, said Kongxay.

The health authorities are expediting the vaccination program as Laos strives to prevent a further outbreak of the virus.

Malaysia

Malaysia recorded 1,737 new COVID-19 infections as of midnight Monday, bringing the total tally to 4,883,796, according to the health ministry.

There were one new imported case and 1,736 more local transmissions, data released on the ministry's website showed.

Three new deaths have been reported from the pandemic, taking the death toll to 36,447.

A woman receives a shot of China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine in Yangon, Myanmar, Aug 29, 2021. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

Myanmar

Myanmar confirmed 139 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing the tally to 630,742, according to the Ministry of Health on Monday.

The ministry said in a statement that the health authorities tested 8,920 people for COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, and the daily positivity rate was 1.56 percent.

The death toll from COVID-19 in the country reached 19,477 on Monday as one new death was reported in the past 24 hours, the ministry said.

New Zealand

New Zealand recorded 16,399 new community cases of COVID-19 and 41 more deaths from the pandemic over the past week, its Ministry of Health said on Tuesday.

On average, new cases per day reached 2,343 in the last week. The country has seen the number of daily cases going down steadily from over 10,000 cases nationwide in early July.

With the fresh cases, New Zealand has recorded 1,831,233 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 2,095 COVID-19-related deaths since the pandemic hit the country in early 2020, the ministry said.

Pakistan

Pakistan has reported 30 new COVID-19 cases, the country's ministry of health said on Tuesday.

The overall tally of infected people climbed to 1,573,755 across the country after adding the fresh cases, according to the data released by the ministry.

A total of 30,621 people died of COVID-19 in Pakistan, with no new death reported, according to the ministry's statistics. There are 44 patients who are in critical condition.

A man shops for face masks in Divisoria, a local shopping district in Manila on May 17, 2022. (JAM STA ROSA / AFP)

Philippines

The Philippines reported 1,334 new COVID-19 infections on Monday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the Southeast Asian country to 3,995,967.

The Department of Health said the number of active cases dropped to 22,850, while 35 more patients died from COVID-19 complications, taking the death toll to 63,814.

Metro Manila, the capital region with over 13 million people, tallied 367 new cases.

ALSO READ: Cambodia reports zero COVID-19 death since April: PM

A notice warning people not to gather in groups larger than five persons as part of restrictions to hald the spread of the coronavirus is displayed at Raffles Place financial business district in Singapore on Jan 4, 2022. (ROSLAN RAHMAN / AFP)

Singapore

Singapore reported 3,627 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the country's total tally to 2,067,790.

Of the new cases, 357 were detected through PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests and 3,270 through ARTs (antigen rapid test), according to statistics released by the Ministry of Health.

Among the PCR cases, 342 were local transmissions and 15 were imported cases. Among the ART cases with mild symptoms and assessed to be of low risk, there were 3,133 local transmissions and 137 imported cases.

One more death from COVID-19 was reported on Monday, taking the total death toll to 1,663.

South Korea

South Korea reported 43,759 new COVID-19 cases as of midnight Monday compared to 24 hours ago, raising the total number of infections to 25,355,350, the health authorities said Tuesday.

The daily caseload was up from 14,302 in the previous day and higher than 33,223 tallied a week earlier, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

Among the new cases, 71 were imported from overseas, lifting the total to 69,353.

Seventeen more deaths were confirmed, leaving the death toll at 29,017. The total fatality rate was 0.11 percent.

Passengers wait for transportation outside the arrival hall of Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi on March 15, 2022, as Vietnam announced the return of a visa exemption policy for 13 countries in an effort to kickstart its tourism sector. (NHAC NGUYEN / AFP)

Vietnam

Vietnam recorded 546 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, up by 388 from Sunday, according to its ministry of health.

All the new cases were locally transmitted, said the ministry.

The newly reported infections brought the total tally to 11,497,533. The country reported two new deaths from the pandemic in the southern Tay Ninh province on Monday, bringing the total fatalities to 43,161

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