Britons have been told to wear face masks again, months after ditching the coverings, as the Arcturus variant ignites thousands of new cases. The Omicron sub-variant has surged across several countries, with the potential of mask-wearing becoming commonplace on public transport again to try and curb the spread. In the UK, experts recommended people wear masks again after five deaths associated with XBB.1.16.

Speaking to the Daily Mail Online, Professor Stephen Griffin, chair of Independent SAGE, also warned that people consider regular testing again. He warned that while it “may seem like a throwback to last year”, the virus remains dangerous.

The doctor said that Covid “continues to do harm”, especially to those who are “least able to cope”. With countrywide Covid-era restrictions having expired, individuals are once again responsible for preventing excess deaths, he added.

Covid Arcturus in India
Arcturus is currently most prevalent in India (Image: GETTY)

The focus is now on “individual risk”, which is now “much lower” for most, but means that some will need to live with precautions.

Professor Griffin added: “If [the] Government won’t act to enable everyone to ‘live’ with Covid, vulnerable people will continue to require precautions and, ideally, others will act with an appropriate level of altruism.”

Arcturus is now rippling across several nations, and the UK Health and Security Agency (UKHSA) has detected 105 in the UK as of this week. The UKHSA estimates that the variant makes up approximately 2.3 percent of all new cases.

Of the 105 confirmed infections, five have resulted in death, and officials believe the new variant is even more infectious than its predecessors. Research suggests it may be 1.2 times more infective than Omicron, the last major sub-variant.

A briefing from the agency released on April 20 revealed that the variant has spread to 22 countries, and infections were rising rapidly in India, where officials have reported 61 percent of all associated cases.

But the UKHSA has not issued official warnings, and experts aren’t convinced Arcturus is more deadly than its predecessors.

Covid Arcturus, need for masks
People haven’t had to wear masks in public for nearly a year (Image: GETTY)

So far, XBB.1.16 is a “designated variant”, not a “variant of concern” like other strains. Covid Arcturus variant may cause ‘new symptom’ that could be mistaken for hay fever So far five Britons have been confirmed to have died with the Arcturus variant of Covid.

Since the start of the Covid pandemic the virus has continued to mutate resulting in the way the infection takes hold of the body changing. Many of us are aware of the earliest symptoms detected back in 2020 with everyone told to be wary of a persistent cough and a loss of taste or smell. But even now, years later, there are other symptoms to look out for.

The Covid XBB.1.16 variant, known more commonly as Arcturus, is the latest strain to raise concern worldwide.

Arcturus was first detected in January by the World Health Organisation. Cases of the variant were first found in the UK in March. The Omicron sub-variant has since spread throughout at least 34 countries, resulting in a significant increase in cases.

And from India there have been reports of a new symptom, not seen in previous strains of the virus. Covid Arcturus has a new symptom that has rarely been seen in past strains of the virus, according to reports. Doctor Neha Narula, of Stanford Medicine, warned that Covid patients have been experiencing conjunctivitis.

Speaking to CBS she said: “When it comes to symptoms we are still seeing things like sore throat, cough, fever. But the new symptom people are talking about is the symptom of conjunctivitis, or as we know it more commonly – pink eye. “It is happening in both children and adults.” However, she explained that it wasn’t entirely new for Covid, as some of the past strains produced similar symptoms. Red or irritated eyes were listed by WHO as one of the “less common” Covid symptoms.

Covid variant

Dr Narula added: “So if you haven’t been protected with the vaccines or boosters, go ahead and get those.

“But if you are having some of these symptoms – watery eyes, red itchy eyes, or other cold symptoms – especially now with this new subvariant circulating, don’t write it off as allergies, go ahead and take that Covid test and talk with your healthcare provider so they can give you further guidance in terms of treatment.” Her warning was echoed by Indian paediatrician Vipn M Vashishtha, who is a member of the WHO’s Vaccine Safety Net programme.

He said children had been suffering with a high fever, cold and cough, and “itchy conjunctivitis” with “sticky eyes” as a result of Covid infection.