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Indian Covid-19 variant found in at least 17 countries: WHO


The World Health Organisation said on Tuesday that a variant of Covid-19 feared to be contributing to a surge of coronavirus cases in India has been found in more than a dozen countries.

 All other nations, apart from Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific, meanwhile reported a weekly decrease in the number of cases.

The UN health agency said the B.1.617 variant of Covid-19 first found in India had as of Tuesday been detected in more than 1,200 sequences uploaded to the GISAID open-access database “from at least 17 countries”.

“Most sequences were uploaded from India, the United Kingdom, USA and Singapore,” WHO said in its weekly epidemiological update on the pandemic.

WHO recently listed B.1.617 – which counts several sub-lineages with slightly different mutations and characteristics – as a “variant of interest”. But the international agency has stopped short of declaring it a “variant of concern”.

That label would indicate that it is more dangerous than the original version of the virus, for instance being more transmissible, deadly or able to dodge vaccine protections.

Fears are rising that the Indian variant could be contributing to an unfolding catastrophe.

The explosion of infections in that country – 350,000 new cases were recorded there on Tuesday alone – has driven a surge in global cases to 147.7 million.

The virus has now killed more than 3.1 million people worldwide.

WHO acknowledged that its preliminary modelling based on sequences submitted to GISAID indicates “that B.1.617 has a higher growth rate than other circulating variants in India, suggesting a potentially increased transmissibility”.

It stressed that other variants circulating at the same time were also showing increased transmissibility, and that the combination “may be playing a role in the current resurgence in this country”.

WHO highlighted though that “other drivers” could be contributing to the surge in India, including lax adherence to public health measures as well as mass gatherings.

The UN agency also stressed that “further robust studies” into the characteristics of B.1.617 and other variants, including impacts on transmissibility, severity and the risk of reinfection, were “urgently needed”.

Globally, new Covid-19 cases have increased for the ninth consecutive week, with nearly 5.7 million new cases reported last week, surpassing previous peaks.

The number of patients dying increased for the sixth consecutive week, with more than 87,000 new deaths reported.

This week, all regions are reporting a decrease in cases, apart from Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific, WHO said.

For the third consecutive week, Southeast Asia reported the highest relative increases in both case and death incidences.

While a number of countries in the region are reporting upward trends, India accounts for the vast majority of cases from this regional trend and 38 per cent of global cases reported in the past week.

Similarly, all but two regions – Southeast Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean – reported declines in new deaths this week.

Published : April 28, 2021

By : The Nation