WHO classifies triple-mutant Covid variant from India as global health risk

World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will attend a press conference at WHO headquarters on July 3, 2020, organized by the United Nations’ Association of Geneva Correspondents (ACANU) in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak caused by the novel coronavirus was organized in Geneva.

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A World Health Organization official said Monday that the highly contagious triple mutant variant of Covid widespread in India is being classified as a “worrying variant,” suggesting it has become a global health threat.

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead for Covid-19, said the agency would provide more details in its weekly status report on pandemic Tuesday, but added that the variant known as B.1.617 was found in preliminary studies to do more Spread more easily than the original virus and there is some evidence that it can evade vaccines.

“And as such, we classify this as a variant of the concern on a global scale,” she said during a press conference. “Although some preliminary studies show increased transferability, we need a lot more information about this virus variant in that line in all sublines. Therefore, we need to do more sequencing and targeted sequencing.”

A Covon-19 coronavirus patient rests in a banquet room temporarily converted into a Covid care center in New Delhi on May 10, 2021.

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The WHO announced last week that it is closely tracking at least 10 coronavirus variants worldwide, including the B.1.617. The variant was previously called the “variant of interest” because more study was needed to fully understand its meaning, Van Kerkhove said.

“For everyone in the home, this means that any circulating SARS-CoV-2 virus can infect and spread you, and anything to do with that is worrying,” she said on Monday. “So, all of us at home, no matter where we live, no matter what virus is circulating, we need to make sure we take all necessary measures to keep us from getting sick.”

A variant can be classified as “worrying” according to the WHO if it is found to be more contagious, more deadly and more resistant to current vaccines and treatments.

The international organization has already identified three other variants with the classification: B.1.1.7, which was first discovered in Great Britain and is currently the most widespread variant in the USA; B. 1.351, detected for the first time in South Africa, and the P.1 variant, detected for the first time in Brazil.

B.1.617 has three sub-lines, said Van Kerkhove, which are described in Tuesday’s management report.

Some believe the variant is behind the recent wave of infections in India.

The country averages 3,879 Covid deaths per day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, although media reports suggest the official number is underestimated. Over the past seven days, an average of 391,000 new cases per day have been reported – an increase of about 4% from a week, data from Johns Hopkins University shows.

The variant has since expanded to other countries, including the United States.

– CNBC’s Rich Mendez contributed to this report.

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