World Health Organization scientist says India variant more contagious

Ruben Hill
May 11, 2021

Four cases of the dominant variant in India (B.1.617.2) were detected in South Africa over the weekend and 11 of the dominant variant in the United Kingdom (B.1.1.7).

The most glaring development was that the United Kingdom variant had been detected in a sequence from a community transmission.

The variant has already spread to other countries, and many nations have moved to cut or restrict movements from India.

"We would like to assure the public that the institute is focusing their resources and research efforts towards understanding the variants and what the potential implications are for South Africa", he said.

While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now lists the Indian variant and its sublineages as a "variant of interest", United Kingdom health officials have already moved to classify the Indian virus variant as a "variant of concern" in the country following an uptick in cases and "evidence of community transmission".

The WHO's chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan agreed.

But she insisted that the variant alone could not be blamed for the dramatic surge in cases and deaths seen in India, pointing to "huge social mixing and large gatherings" in recent months.

Additional information is expected to be released Tuesday, she said.

Over the weekend, Mkhize announced that two more Covid-19 variants had been detected in SA.

"At that point it's very hard to suppress, because it's then involving tens of thousands of people and it's multiplying at a rate at which it's very difficult to stop".

He also asked the authorities concerned to conduct the maximum number of Covid-19 tests in the bordering areas to prevent the transmission of the Indian variant of the deadly virus. Swaminathan further warned that chances of such risky variants emerging is more in the coming days.

Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO's technical lead for Covid-19, said during a press conference that while "we need much more information about this virus variant", preliminary studies of the mutation have demonstrated "increased transmissibility".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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