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WHO classifies Indian COVID-19 strain as a variant of global concern

DUBLIN: The World Health Organisation has expressed concern about the COVID-19 variant that is spreading in India. The WHO said the Indian variant appears to be more contagious and has been classified as a variant of global concern.

Some preliminary studies shows that the B.1.617 variant (Indian variant) seems to be transmitting more easily than other COVID-19 variants. According to the UN health agency, this variant has some increased resistance to vaccine protections, which is a major cause of concern.

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead on Covid-19 said: “We are classifying this (B.1.617 variant) as a variant of concern at a global level. There is some available information to suggest increased transmissibility.”

The B.1.617 variant is the fourth variant to be added in the list of global concern, after the COVID-19 variants in the UK, South Africa and Brazil.

Ms. Van Kerkhove said more information about the variant will be provided in the coming days. “Even though there is increased transmissibility demonstrated by some preliminary studies, we need much more information about this virus variant and this lineage and all of the sub-lineages,” she said.

Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist at the WHO, said studies were being conducted in India to examine the transmission of the variant, the severity of the disease it causes, and the response of antibodies to people who have been vaccinated.

“Together for India” campaign

The World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation is launching a “Together for India” campaign to raise funds for the purchase of oxygen, medicines and protective equipment for health workers, said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

India’s situation continues to deteriorate

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 situation in India remains critical. But there is a slight relief for the country as India on Tuesday recorded its lowest count of daily COVID-19 cases in fourteen days. However, the fact that there are still over 3 lakh cases does not alleviate any concerns.

In the last 24 hours, the country recorded 3,29,942 cases, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases to 2,29,92,517. The last time India recorded around 3.20 lakh cases in a day was on April 27. The highest single-day count of fresh COVID-19 cases was 4 lakh recorded on May 1.

The death toll in India now stands at 2,49,992, with the country recording 3,876 deaths in the last 24 hours. India recorded 27,000 deaths between May 3 and May 9 – the highest weekly toll ever in the country.

Oxygen shortage and a lack of hospital bed capacity continue to be worries in many Indian hospitals. Due to the uncontrollable spread of the virus, several states have declared full lockdown, while a few have declared partial lockdown.

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