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WHO classes Indian Covid-19 variant as ‘global’ concern, amid worries of vaccine resistance — RT World News From “RT World News”



The World Health Organization has classified the strain of coronavirus currently devastating India as a global “variant of concern.” The variant is thought to be more transmissible, and could be more resistant to vaccines.

First identified in India last year, the B.1.617 strain is believed to be behind the wave of infections and deaths in the country in recent months. More than 400,000 cases were recorded on multiple days last week in India, with deaths hitting a record 1,187 on Friday.

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“We are classifying this as a variant of concern at a global level,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead for Covid-19, told a briefing in Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday.“There is some available information to suggest increased transmissibility,” Van Kerkhove added.The Indian variant is the fourth such strain of the novel coronavirus to be designated a “variant of concern.” Mutated strains first discovered in the UK, South Africa, and Brazil have all received this classification, and Van Kerkhoeve said last week that the WHO is currently tracking 10 different variants worldwide, with less-concerning ones classified as “variants of interest.”The WHO gives variants its most serious classification if there is evidence of increased transmissibility, increased virulence, or increased resistance to vaccines and treatment. WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan caused a stir last week when she told AFP that the B.1.617 variant displayed mutations “that could make [it] resistant to antibodies that are generated by vaccination or by natural infection.”

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However, Swaminathan said on Monday that she had been “misquoted,” and that there is no data yet on the Indian variant’s “impact on diagnostics, therapeutics or vaccine effectiveness.”England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty told a media briefing on Monday that B.1.617 appears less likely to be vaccine-resistant than other mutated strains under investigation, but further data needs to be gathered on the subject to “give us an answer one way or the other”.One study has found the Indian variant to be more resistant to antibodies, but the findings have yet to be peer-reviewed. With a full situation report on the variant to be released by the WHO on Tuesday, the agency’s official line remains that current Covid vaccines “remain effective at preventing disease and death in people infected with this variant.”Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!







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WHO classifies triple-mutant Covid variant from India as global health risk : worldnews From “World News”



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WHO classifies triple-mutant Covid variant from India as global health risk From “International: Top News And Analysis”



World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a press conference organised by the Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU) amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus, on July 3, 2020 at the WHO headquarters in Geneva.Fabrice Coffrini | AFP | Getty ImagesA World Health Organization official said Monday it is reclassifying the highly contagious triple-mutant Covid variant spreading in India as a “variant of concern,” indicating that it’s become a global health threat.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.”A Covid-19 coronavirus patient rests inside a banquet hall temporarily converted into a Covid care centre in New Delhi on May 10, 2021.Arun Sankar | AFP | Getty ImagesThe 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 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.— CNBC’s Rich Mendez contributed to this report.







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Indian virus variant found in Thai travelers from Pakistan From “World News Headlines, Latest International News, World Breaking News – Times of India”



BANGKOK: Health authorities in Thailand said Monday they have confirmed the country’s first cases of the Indian variant of the coronavirus, in a Thai woman and her 4-year-old son who have been in state quarantine since arriving from Pakistan. The finding comes as Thailand battles a new wave of the coronavirus that began at the beginning of April, originating in upmarket entertainment venues in Bangkok and spawning clusters in several crowded slum communities. Many of the recent cases involve the British variant of the virus, which is more infectious than the original form found last year. Thailand banned travelers from India, other than Thai citizens, starting on May 1 in response to a massive outbreak of COVID-19 cases in the South Asian nation that began in early April. India has reported more than 22.6 million infections, second only to the United States, and more than 246,000 deaths. Both figures are widely believed to be undercounts. Thailand extended the entry ban to foreigners visiting from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal on Monday in an effort to keep the Indian variant from spreading, Thai Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tanee Sangrat said. Apisamai Srirangsan, a deputy spokesperson for the government’s Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration, said separately that Thai authorities are also worried about people who cross into Thailand illegally, mostly from neighboring Cambodia and Myanmar. Apisamai said the Indian variant was found in a pregnant 42-year-old woman who arrived on April 24 with three sons. She and her 4-year-old were staying in the same room under state quarantine. The two other sons, ages 6 and 8, stayed in another room and tested negative. Thailand on Monday announced 1,630 new cases, bringing its confirmed total to 85,005 since the pandemic began. There were 22 new deaths, for a total of 421. About one-third of the reported cases in the latest wave were found in Bangkok, where daily increases have declined to 565 on Monday from 980 on Sunday and a record 1,112 on Saturday. New clusters continue to be discovered in Bangkok, not only in crowded communities, but also at markets and department stores. Other clusters have been found among migrant workers at factories in two provinces near Bangkok. In the eastern province of Chanthaburi, a gem mining center, nearly 100 cases were found among African gem traders, the newspaper Thai Rath reported, citing the provincial health office. The governor this past weekend ordered the closure of gem and amulets markets, it said. FacebookTwitterLinkedinEMail







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Indian virus variant found in Thai travelers from Pakistan From “World”




Health authorities in Thailand say they have confirmed the country’s first cases of the Indian variant of the coronavirus, in a Thai woman and her 4-year-old son who have been in state quarantine since arriving from Pakistan







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France: 20 cases of COVID ‘variant of concern’ found in India | Coronavirus pandemic News From “Al Jazeera – Breaking News, World News and Video from Al Jazeera”



Despite the detection of five clusters, the health minister says strain ‘not spreading rapidly’ and pushes ahead with the reopening plan.The coronavirus variant first detected in India appears to be on the rise in France, which has now recorded at least 20 cases, according to the country’s health minister.
On Monday, Olivier Veran told French news channel LCI that people affected had been identified in five small clusters, local media reported.
Veran did not specify where the cases had been recorded but said the variant, formally known as B.1.617, was “not spreading rapidly” in the country.
France first detected a handful of instances of the variant late last month.
Veran’s comments came as concerns grow over the strain as B.1.617 is linked to a devastating wave of infections in India.
It has since spread outwards to about 20 other countries, including several European nations, prompting fresh travel restrictions with India.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has described B.1.617 as a “variant of interest”, suggesting it may have mutations that would make the virus more transmissible, cause more severe disease, or evade vaccine immunity.
Other strains with known risks, such as those first detected in the United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa, have been categorised as “variants of concern” – a higher threat level.
B.1.617 contains two notable mutations – formally known as E484Q and L452R.
This has led to it sometimes being dubbed the “double mutant” strain, though this is something of a misnomer as it actually carries more than a dozen mutations altogether.
Reopening plans
France began its third national lockdown at the end of March, but faced pressure from businesses and a COVID-weary public.
Despite the rise in cases, Veran confirmed that France will continue with plans to reopen bars and restaurants for outdoor service on May 19, as the third wave of the pandemic appears to be easing.
Authorities will also start relaxing a nightly curfew.
“The prospects look rather good but we must not let down our guard,” Veran told LCI television.
The moves come as France attempts to speed up its mass immunisation programme following a sluggish start.
As of Sunday, 17.8 million people had received at least one dose of vaccine, accounting for 26.6 percent of the total population, the health ministry said. Some 7.8 million people had been fully inoculated with two doses.
Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 patients in French intensive care units fell below 5,000 for the first time since March 29 on Sunday, health ministry data showed.
The number was down for a sixth day in a row at 4,971, against 5,005 the previous day, the ministry said.The health ministry also said a total of 106,392 people had died from COVID-19 as of Sunday, up 115.
The number of new infections rose by 9,128, compared with 9,888 a week earlier, taking the total to 5.78 million.







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South Africa Reports 4 Cases Of India Covid Variant From “NDTV News – World-news”



South Africa is at least the fourth country on the continent to pick up the B.1.617.2 variant(FILE)Johannesburg: South Africa’s health ministry on Saturday said four cases of a coronavirus variant fuelling a devastating surge of Covid-19 in India had been recorded in the country.”The four cases of B.1.617.2 have been detected in (the provinces of) Gauteng (2) and KwaZulu-Natal (2) and all have a history of recent arrival from India,” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said in a statement late Saturday.Eleven cases of another variant first detected in the United Kingdom and known as B.1.1.7 have also been found, the statement added, noting that community transmission of that variant had “already set in”.South Africa is at least the fourth country on the continent to pick up the B.1.617.2 variant, alongside Kenya, Uganda and Morocco.India is grappling with an explosive coronavirus outbreak widely attributed to the variant, which has now been found in more than a dozen countries worldwide.South Africa has not yet joined the growing number of countries worldwide that have banned flights from India to limit the spread of its variant.Mkhize said travel restrictions would “need to be balanced against scientific realities” to protect the economy of Africa’s most industrialised nation.An announcement will be made once the cabinet has consulted on the matter, he added.South Africa is the continent’s worst virus-hit country, accounting for more than 34 percent of all cases in the region.The country’s second coronavirus wave, which peaked earlier this year, was driven by a local, more infectious coronavirus variant known as B.1.351.Mkhize earlier this week raised the alarm over “a worrying trend of increasing numbers of detected cases” in certain provinces.He warned of a looming third wave of infections likely to coincide with the upcoming southern hemisphere winter.To date, the country has recorded more than 1.59 million coronavirus cases, of which more than 54,700 have been fatal.(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)







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Covid-19 Indian variant spreads to neighbouring countries; detected in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh From “World News Headlines, Latest International News, World Breaking News – Times of India”



DHAKA/COLOMBO: India’s neighbours – Sri Lanka and Bangladesh – have reported the first cases of the Indian variant of coronavirus, also known as B.1.617, prompting authorities to exercise caution to contain its spread. Bangladesh overnight detected six people, who had recently visited India, infected with the Indian variant of the Covid-19, directorate general of health services (DGHS) spokesman professor Dr Nazmul Islam Munna said on Saturday. Out of the six people, two were detected in the national capital Dhaka. All of them are currently kept under quarantine. “Six people have been found to be carrying the Indian variant so far and we expect more people to be detected with identical types of virus in the coming days,” Munna told PTI. “This development means we in Bangladesh need extreme caution, perfect compliance of health guidelines. If we maintain the guidelines, no variant – deadly or not – can cause major problems,” Munna said. Following the detection of the Indian variant, Bangladesh on Saturday extended the closure of land borders with India for 14 more days. Last month, Bangladesh sealed its borders with India due to the raging number of coronavirus cases in the neighbouring country. But officials and reports said many people came to Bangladesh from India under special arrangements and some of them fled a mandatory quarantine, heightening risks of spreading the pandemic. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka on Saturday detected its first case of the Indian variant of coronavirus in a person who recently returned from India. The department of immunology and molecular medicine of the University of Sri Jayewardenapura in a report said the infected person was found at a quarantine center for returnees in Colombo. The sample was among several other samples obtained for testing until April 30. Both Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are experiencing a surge in the coronavirus cases. Sri Lanka on Friday recorded 19 deaths, the highest number of fatalities in a single day. The total number of deaths in the country due to Covid-19 stands at 764. The country has over 1,21,000 coronavirus infections. Bangladesh reported 45 deaths in the last 24 hours, taking the total number of fatalities to 11,878. The total number of Covid-19 cases in the country stands at 7,72,127 with 1,285 fresh infections reported on Saturday. The B.1.617 variant of SARS-CoV2 or the ‘Indian strain’, feared to be contributing to a surge in coronavirus cases in India, has been designated as the Variants of Interest (VOI) by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the UN health agency said in its weekly epidemiological update last month. In its report, the WHO had said that the Indian strain of the coronavirus has been found in at least 17 countries. The B.1.617 variant has three new spike protein mutations. Two mutations — E484Q and L452R — are in the area important for antibody-based neutralisation. The third mutation — P681R — allows the virus to enter cells a little better. These are defining characteristics of the variant. The B.1.617 variant has been found prevalent largely in Maharashtra and Delhi that have been severely hit by a devastating second wave of the pandemic. Experts have said that the Indian strain of the coronavirus carries higher transmissibility similar to the UK variant, but there is little evidence so far of it being more lethal than the original virus. Anurag Agrawal, the director of the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), told PTI, “As far as we know, neither the UK variant nor this one (B.1.617) is associated with increased severity of illness or death. The UK strain is proven to have higher transmissibility and B.1.617 may have increased transmissibility.” “But this (that the B.1.617 variant has more transmissibility) has not been proven and there are several characterises to prove it and the studies have not been completed,” he said. The original India variant – officially known as B.1.617 – was first detected in October. Last month, UK’s Public Health England (PHE) had categorised two further subtypes to that – B.1.617.2 and B.1.617.3. Experts believe that of the three, the variant B.1.617.2 is at least as transmissible as the so-called Kent variant, which had been detected in England at the end of last year and led to the UK’s second wave surge in coronavirus infections earlier this year. Meanwhile, health authorities in England on Friday elevated one subtype of the so-called Indian variant from under investigation to a Variant of Concern (VOC) following a rise in the number of cases in the UK and evidence of community transmission. The B.1.617.2, classified as a Variant Under Investigation (VUI) on April 28, is now known as VOC-21APR-02 after it was found to be at least as transmissible as the so-called Kent variant, detected in England last year and the dominant variant in the UK so far.







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Leaked Data Reveals UK Concerned About 1 Version Of Indian Variant Of COVID-19: Report From “NDTV News – World-news”



UK reportedly recommended B.1.617.2 version of the Indian Covid variant as ‘Variant of Concern’London: Health authorities in England are believed to be especially concerned about one strain out of three Indian variants they have been tracking since last month.According to a report based on leaked data by the BBC, Public Health England (PHE) is said to have recommended the B.1.617.2 version of the Indian variant to be classed as Variant of Concern (VOC) as it appears to spread more quickly than two other identified subtypes of the Indian variant.The version, along with B.1.617 and B.1.617.3, have so far been classed as Variant Under Investigation (VUI), reported news agency Press Trust of India.Latest surveillance data released by PHE indicates 61 more cases of the B.1.617 variant from India with the other two versions still under review, taking the total number of cases to around 500.Experts believe the variant B.1.617.2 is at least as transmissible as the so-called Kent variant, which had been detected in England at the end of last year and led to the UK’s second wave surge in coronavirus infections earlier this year.According to the report, there is no evidence that the Indian variants are resistant to vaccines as of now.They do not feature the E.484K mutation found in the South African variant of the virus, which could help the virus dodge a person’s immune system.The Kent, South Africa and Brazil strains have all been deemed Variants of Concern in the UK.These versions, along with the India variant, have all undergone changes to their spike protein the part of the virus which attaches to human cells.Viruses by nature mutate, producing different versions of themselves. Most of these mutations are insignificant but some can make the virus more contagious and harder to vaccinate against. The Indian variant is believed to be largely behind the current surge in infections in India’s ongoing severe second wave of the pandemic.The PHE has said it would not comment on leaked data, reported news agency PTI. (Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)







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UK Labels Coronavirus Variant Of Concern Linked To Travel From India From “NDTV News – World-news”



“I think we’ve got to be very careful about that,” Boris Johnson said, in reference to variant.London: British health officials on Friday labelled a coronavirus variant first found in India a “variant of concern” due to evidence it spreads more easily, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying the situation needed careful handling.Public Health England designated variant B.1.617.2, one of three variants identified in India that has spread to Britain, a variant of concern. Surge testing was being carried out in areas where evidence indicates community spread.Cases of the B.1.617.2 variant increased to 520 from 202 over the last week, PHE said, mainly in London and the northwest town of Bolton, with almost half the cases related to contact with a traveller.”I think we’ve got to be very careful about that,” Johnson told reporters, in reference to the variant.”We’re doing a huge amount, obviously, to make sure that when we do find outbreaks of the Indian variant that we do surge testing, that we do door-to-door testing.”PHE cited evidence that it spreads more quickly than the original version of the virus and could spread as quickly as the so-called “Kent” variant which fuelled England’s second wave of infections.The public health body said other characteristics of the B.1.617.2 variant were still being investigated.”There is currently insufficient evidence to indicate that any of the variants recently detected in India cause more severe disease or render the vaccines currently deployed any less effective,” PHE said in a statement.The original India variant, B.1.617, was first detected in October, but PHE has categorised three different subtypes, all with slightly different mutations.Other variants of concern include variants first identified in Kent, southeast England, as well as South Africa and Brazil.Two weeks ago, India, which is experiencing a deadly surge in cases, was added to Britain’s travel “red list”, meaning travellers have to quarantine in special hotels.But the move, which came in on April 23, was announced on April 19, giving travellers notice if they wanted to change plans and beat the hotel quarantine.Britain has recorded 4,428,553 coronavirus cases and 127,583 deaths since the pandemic hit its shores, making it one of the worst hit countries in the world. About 66% of the adult population has now been vaccinated and lockdown restrictions are being eased.India is reporting record daily death counts. In total it has recorded 21.49 million cases and 234,083 deaths.(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)







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