World Health Organization keeps eye out for variant found in India

Ruben Hill
May 11, 2021

Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 Technical Lead at the World Health Organization, said Monday (May 10) that the B.1.617 virus variant that was first identified in India had been classified as a variant of interest by the WHO.

Health Minister Zahid Maleque has said the Covid-19 situation in the country could become similar to India and Nepal after Eid if people continue moving recklessly.

The Indian coronavirus variant has some mutations that potentially could make it resistant to antibodies that are generated by vaccinations, she further added.

When it comes to the B.1.617 variant, Van Kerkove stressed that for the time being "we don't have anything to suggest that our diagnostics or therapeutics and our vaccines don't work".

Van Kerkhove said more information about the variant and its three lineages would be made available on Tuesday. Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, WHO's chief scientist, told Agence France-Presse on Saturday that the B.1.617 variant was concerning because it contains mutations that increase transmission.

On Monday, health authorities in the South Asian country reported 370,000 new coronavirus infections and 3,700 deaths.

The call came just two days after Bangladesh identified at least six cases of the highly contagious Indian variant. That danger stems from a variant's higher transmissibility, lethality and resistance to vaccines.

"In consultation with our virus evolution working group, and our Epi teams and our lab teams internally, there is some available information to suggest increased transmissibility of B-1617 as such we are classifying this as a variant of concern at the global level", she said.

"This is important. We will continue to see variants emerge".

The WHO says that although most regions around the world are now registering fewer infections, South Asia and Southeast Asia are experiencing dramatic increases.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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