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Covid variant from India found in at least 17 countries: WHO | India News

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GENEVA: The World Health Organization said Tuesday that a variant of Covid-19 that it feared was contributing to an increase in coronavirus cases in India was found in more than a dozen countries.
The UN health agency said that Covid-19 variant B.1.617 first found in India had been detected as of Tuesday in more than 1,200 sequences uploaded to the GISAID open access database “of at least 17 countries “.
“Most of the sequences were uploaded from India, the United Kingdom, the United States and Singapore,” the WHO said in its weekly epidemiological update on the pandemic.
WHO recently listed B.1.617, which counts several sublineages with slightly different mutations and characteristics, as a “variant of interest”.
But so far it has failed to declare it a “variant of concern.”
That label would indicate that it is more dangerous than the original version of the virus, for example, being more transmissible, lethal or capable of circumventing the protections of the vaccine.
India is facing a surge in new cases and deaths in the pandemic, and fears are mounting that the variant could be contributing to the unfolding catastrophe.
India’s explosion of infections – 350,000 new cases were recorded there on Tuesday alone – has caused global cases to rise to 147.7 million.
The virus has now killed more than 3.1 million people worldwide.
WHO acknowledged that its preliminary model based on sequences submitted to GISAID indicates “that B.1.617 has a higher growth rate than other circulating variants in India, suggesting a potential increase in transmissibility.”
He noted that other variants circulating at the same time also showed greater transmissibility, and that the combination “may be playing a role in the current resurgence in this country.”
“In fact, studies have highlighted that the spread of the second wave has been much faster than the first,” the WHO said.
However, he noted that “other drivers” could be contributing to the increase, including lax adherence to public health measures, as well as mass gatherings.
“More research is needed to understand the relative contribution of these factors,” he said.
The UN agency also stressed that “more robust studies” on the characteristics of B.1.617 and other variants, including impacts on transmissibility, severity and risk of reinfection, were “urgently needed”.

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