WHO Classifies Indian Covid-19 as Global Health Risk
Story Code : 931942
Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead for Covid-19, said the agency will provide more details in its weekly situation report on the pandemic Tuesday but added that the variant, known as B.1.617, has been found in preliminary studies to spread more easily than the original virus and there is some evidence it may able to evade vaccines.
“And as such we are classifying this as a variant of concern at the global level,” she said during a press conference. “Even though there is increased transmissibility demonstrated by some preliminary studies, we need much more information about this virus variant in this lineage in all of the sub-lineages, so we need more sequencing, targeted sequencing to be done.”
The WHO said last week it was closely following at least 10 coronavirus variants across the world, including the B.1.617. The variant was previously labeled a “variant of interest” as more studies were needed to completely understand its significance, Van Kerkhove said.
“What it means for anybody at home is any of the SARS-CoV-2 viruses circulating can infect you and spread and everything in that sense is of concern,” she said Monday. “So, all of us at home, no matter where we live, no matter what virus is circulating, we need to make sure that we take all of the measures at hand to prevent ourselves from getting sick.”
A variant can be labeled as “of concern” if it has been shown to be more contagious, more deadly, and more resistant to current vaccines and treatments, according to the WHO.
The international organization has already designated three other variants with the classification: B.1.1.7, which was first detected in the U.K. and is the most prevalent variant currently circulating throughout the U.S.; B.1.351, first detected in South Africa, and the P.1 variant, first detected in Brazil.
B.1.617 has three sublineages, Van Kerkhove said, that will be described in the situation report Tuesday.
The variant is believed by some to be behind the latest wave of infections in India.
The country is averaging about 3,879 Covid deaths per day, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, though media reports indicate the official figure is being understated. It has reported an average of about 391,000 new cases per day over the past seven days — up about 4% from a week ago, Johns Hopkins University data shows.
The variant has since spread to other countries, including the United States.