WHO classifies Covid variant from India as ‘variant of concern’
The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified the coronavirus variant, B.1.617, as a “variant of global concern”. This variant was first detected in India in October last year. A variant is classified as a “variant of concern” (VOC) when it fulfills at least one of several criteria. These criteria include severe illness, easy transmission, reduced neutralisation by antibodies or reduced effectiveness of treatment and vaccines.
According to WHO, preliminary studies of B.1.617 mutation show that it spreads more easily than other variants. Scientists do not yet know whether this variant is more infectious or resistant to vaccines and requires further study. Three other variants from the UK, South Africa and Brazil have been classified as “variants of concern”. The Indian variant has already spread to more than 30 countries. Amid the deadly second wave of coronavirus in India, many nations including Singapore, the U.K. and Tanzania have restricted travel to and from India.
Surge in the covid cases is stretching health infrastructure to limits. Hospitals and crematoriums are overwhelmed in the country.
As per the data released by the health ministry, India reported 3,66,161 new Covid-19 cases and 3,754 deaths on Monday. WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the WHO Foundation was launching a “Together for India” appeal to raise funds to purchase oxygen, medicines and protective equipment for health workers.
“This is important. We will continue to see variants emerge. We will continue to see variants of concern around the world and we must do everything that we can to really limit the spread, limit infections, prevent the spread and reduce severe disease and death with the tools that we have at hand,” Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, Covid-19 Technical Lead at WHO, on Monday told a briefing.