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Variant B.1.617 identified in India has already spread to 44 countries

WHO: Indian variant of covid-19 is worrying 0:53

(CNN) – A variant of COVID-19 first identified in India has spread to 44 countries around the world, threatening to undermine global progress in containing the pandemic. Variant B.1.617 appears to be driving India’s crippling second wave, which killed 4,205 people on Wednesday alone, a record high. In February, however, it appeared that India had brought the pandemic under control, with daily cases falling by almost 90% since the peak of the first wave. So how come this variant got so out of control?

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday classified the variant identified in India as “worrisome”, which means that it may be, among other indicators, more communicable, cause a more serious disease, not respond to treatment, avoid immune response or not being diagnosed by standard tests.

There are doubts about the role that the variant has played in the resurgence of cases and deaths in India, the WHO said on Wednesday, explaining that other factors, such as mass religious and political gatherings, have probably also contributed.

The WHO assessment will come as no surprise to critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who have come under increasing criticism after holding multiple election rallies that drew thousands of people and giving the thumbs-up for the largest religious pilgrimage on the planet last month, even as experts warned it could cause a deadly surge.

WHO noted that “the exact contributions of each of these factors in increasing transmission in India are not well understood.” Meanwhile, the Indian surge has devastated major cities, and hospitals have been left without oxygen and medicine. And the nightmare seems inescapable, with devastating scenes now ravaging the entire nation. In rural states and in the more remote villages, doctors and clinics are in short supply, leaving India’s poorest fighting for their lives without access to health care.

Although India accounts for 95% of cases and 93% of deaths in Southeast Asia, and 50% of cases and 30% of deaths globally, worrying trends have also been observed in neighboring countries. .

Variant B.1.617 has also spread beyond the borders of India. The United Kingdom, which is about to take its “biggest step” towards normalcy by abandoning most restrictions due to the pandemic next Monday, has reported the highest number of cases of the strain outside India, according to the WHO. . England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty said on Monday, when asked about the variant, that “we don’t know if this is going to cause significant problems in the autumn.” Meanwhile, in the United States, where B.1.617 is also present, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to classify it as a “variant of interest,” but noted that this classification could increase or decrease based on scientific evidence.

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