Global concern grows over new Covid variant from India as cases soar

The new Covid-19 variant first identified in India has spread to at least 18 countries, according to some observers Wednesday.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified the new strain B.1.617 as a “variant of interest”. It has yet to be classified as a “variant of concern”, as the South Africa and UK strain have been, as it requires more research.

But the organization and many health authorities are finding that this new variant is a possible cause for the rapid rise in infections and collapse of the nation’s healthcare system. 

B.1.617 has a “higher growth rate than other circulating variants in India, suggesting potential increased transmissibility,” the WHO acknowledged earlier this week.

Other countries where the variant has been identified include Singapore, the UK, and USA.

In India, health authorities recorded more than 320,000 new cases and 2,771 deaths on Tuesday alone, according to the website Worldometer.

With a population of 1.38 billion, India is the latest epicentre of the outbreak with more than 201,000 recorded deaths since the pandemic began. However, experts believe that the real toll is much higher, based on an observed spike in death rates and cremations.

Several countries including China, Pakistan, and Singapore have pledged assistance as hospitals and cremation sites around India are overrun. Clinics are also running out of oxygen.

Experts also suggest that the new variant might pose a risk to those who have recovered from a Covid-19 infection or have been vaccinated, as their immunity may not be resilient to other forms of the virus.

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