The World Health Organization (WHO) has put the coronavirus variant XBB.1.16 on its watch list. “We are seeing characteristics that indicate an increased contagion capacity,” said WHO Emergency Response Director Mike Ryan in Geneva on Tuesday.

According to previous knowledge, the symptoms are the same as with other variants. XBB.1.16 was first reported in January. The variant now accounts for 4.2 percent of the 3,000 virus sequences submitted. A month ago it was only 0.5 percent. “This variant could continue to spread around the world and it could lead to an increase in cases,” Ryan said. However, there are currently no signs that it causes more severe disease progression. According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), there are only a few XBB.1.16 records in Germany.

These lists are available from the WHO

On the watch list (variants under monitoring VUMs) are seven variants, one more is at the next higher level, Variant of Interest (VOI). There are currently no variants of concern (VOC) listed

The emergency committee, which advises the WHO on whether the highest alert level should continue to apply to the corona pandemic, will meet again in the first week of May. He is discussing whether to recommend that the WHO lift the Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). According to Ryan, many countries are at a point where they have relatively few serious illnesses with high vaccination rates. For them, the corona virus is no longer an emergency, but that is by no means the case for all countries, said Ryan. Within four weeks, three million infections were still reported – although in many places there are hardly any tests – and more than 23,000 deaths in connection with the Sars-CoV-2 virus.

It is to be hoped that there will be as little virus activity as possible in the near future and that the number of cases will only increase seasonally, similar to influenza or RSV viruses. “We’re not going to get rid of the virus,” Ryan said. It will continue to cause serious illnesses.