Covid-19: Cases of Indian variant confirmed in South Africa

Brenda Watkins
May 11, 2021

A top official at the World Health Organisation said Monday the organization will classify a coronavirus variant first found in India as a global health concern.

Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO's COVID-19 technical lead, said during a press conference that the B.1.617 variant appeared to spread more readily in preliminary studies released ahead of peer review. About 783,000 new cases are reported on average each day globally, almost half in India, where a virus variant, B.1.617, has been spreading.

"We are classifying this as a variant of concern at a global level".

According to latest BCCDC data for the week ending May 1, 80 per cent of all screened samples were variants of concern, so variants have now taken over from the original virus that circulated past year.

ReutersAnd even for countries that have vaccinated large portions of their populations, Tedros warned against premature celebration, urging them to brace for variants that could evade vaccines.

Often called a 'double mutant, ' the strain has mutations to two parts of its spike protein that help it latch onto human cells, B.16.17 has split into three closely related sublineages that together account for more than 75 percent of cases in India, and a little more than one percent of USA cases.

The experts, however, said the new variants detected in South Africa were not driving the surge.

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Razak said all the vaccines approved in Canada, including AstraZeneca, are good vaccines to take. The current jabs are modelled on the Wuhan variant which is no longer dominant.

Sublineage B.1.617.2 is the most common of B.1.617's deviations.

"All cases have been isolated and managed according to national Covid19 case management guidelines and contact tracing has been performed in order to limit the spread of this variant", said Mkhize.

"Rather than panic, I think we should focus on making sure that our resurgence plans are in place and we are engaging with communities about nonpharmaceutical interventions and hospitals are ready in terms of oxygen, beds, ICUs".

Professor Thumbi Ndung'u, deputy director of the African Health Research Institute, said the rise in the number of Covid-19 cases was particularly of concern now with winter around the corner.

The surge in India is frightening not only due to the horrifying number of people who are sick and dying there, but also because the exploding infection numbers dramatically increase the chances of new and more risky variants emerging.

Kerkhove said the agency needs much more information around the variant and its three sublineages, such as neutralization and any increased severity, through targeted sequencing.

Another four cases have tested positive for the B.1.617.2 coronavirus strain first detected in India.

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