SOURCE: AFP — A COVID-19 variant spreading in India, which is facing an explosive outbreak, appears to be more contagious and has been classified as being “of concern”, the World Health Organization said Monday.
The UN health agency said the B.1.617 variant of COVID-19 first found in India last October seemed to be transmitting more easily than the original version of the virus, and might possibly have some increased resistance to vaccine protections.
“There is some available information to suggest increased transmissibility of the B.1.617,” Maria Van Kerkove, the WHO’s lead on COVID-19, told reporters, also pointing to early studies “suggesting that there is some reduced neutralisation”.
“As such we are classifying this as a variant of concern at the global level,” she said, adding that more details would be provided in the WHO’s weekly epidemiological update on Tuesday.
India, suffering from one of the worst outbreaks in the world, reported nearly 370,000 fresh infections and more than 3,700 new deaths on Monday.
The devastating wave has overwhelmed India’s healthcare system, and experts have said official figures for cases and fatalities are much lower than the actual numbers.
It has for some time been feared that B.1.617 — which counts several sub-lineages with slightly different mutations and characteristics — might be contributing to the alarming spread.