World Health Organization classifies India variant as being of global concern



"And so I think what we're seeing is more transmissible".

The UN health agency said the B.1.617 variant of Covid-19 first found in India last October seemed to be transmitting more easily than the original version of the virus, and might possibly have some increased resistance to vaccine protections.

Saskia Popescu, an infectious-disease expert who is an assistant professor at George Mason University, said that Americans should not be lulled into thinking the virus is defeated, because "we have to see the crisis in India as a wake-up call for global vaccine equity and that COVID-19 isn't gone anywhere until it's gone everywhere".

"The institute can confirm that four of the specimens tested positive for B.1.617.2 (two cases from Gauteng and two from KwaZulu-Natal)".

"B 1.617 is likely to be a variant of concern because it has some mutations which increase transmission, and which also potentially could make (it) resistant to antibodies that are generated by vaccination or by natural infection", she said.

Will vaccines still work on the new Indian variant?

"All cases have been isolated and managed according to national Covid19 case management guidelines and contact tracing has been performed in order to limit the spread of this variant", said Mkhize.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, India has confirmed 22,296,414 cases and 242,398 deaths.

The Indian coronavirus variant is unlikely to slow down the UK's release from lockdown because the less unsafe version is predominantly spreading in Britain, experts have said.

"The current surge in Nepal's cases may point to this as the reason", said Karmacharya.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) dubbed B.1.617 a "variant of interest" - a less urgent designation - last week.

It is the fourth coronavirus variant to be added to the list, after the three first confirmed in Britain, South Africa and Brazil.

"That's going to be a problem for the whole world".

Dr Michelle Groome, head of the Division of Public Health Surveillance and Response at the NICD said that provincial health authorities remain on high alert and are prioritising the sequencing of Covid-19 positive samples from travellers entering the country, specifically those from India.

The surge in India is frightening not only due to the horrifying number of people who are sick and dying there, but also because the exploding infection numbers dramatically increase the chances of new and more risky variants emerging. This information could help scientists understand the degree to which the variant is circulating in India and other countries. "What is happening in India is already happening in Nepal".

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