Only one of three covid strains detected in India is a ‘variant of concern’: WHO

News Network
June 2, 2021

United Nations, June 2: The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said only B.1.617.2, one of the three strains of the B.1.617 Covid-19 variant first detected in India, is a “variant of concern” now and noted that lower rates of transmission have been observed for the other two lineages.

The B.1.617 variant was first detected in India and was divided in three lineages - B.1.617.1, B.1.617.2 and B.1.617.3.

In the Covid-19 Weekly Epidemiological Update published on Tuesday, WHO said available findings for lineages B.1.617.1 and B.1.617.2 were initially used to designate B.1.617 a global Variant of Concern (VOC) on May 11 this year.

“Since then, it has become evident that greater public health risks are currently associated with B.1.617.2, while lower rates of transmission of other lineages have been observed,” WHO said.

The UN health agency said that in order to reflect this updated information, B.1.617 has been “delineated”.

“B.1.617.2 remains a VOC and labelled variant Delta – we continue to observe significantly increased transmissibility and a growing number of countries reporting outbreaks associated with this variant. Further studies into the impact of this variant remain a high priority for WHO.”

The Delta variant has now been reported in 62 countries around the world as of June 1, the update said.

It added that the B.1.617.1 strain has been reclassified to a Variant of Interest (VOI) and labelled variant “Kappa”. While Kappa is also demonstrating increased transmissibility (in specified locations), “global prevalence appears to be declining. This variant will continue to be monitored and reassessed regularly.”

The B.1.617.3 lineage is "no longer classified as either a VOI or VOC – relatively few reports of this variant have been submitted to date.”

On Monday, the WHO announced the new naming system for key Covid-19 variants and the labels are based on the Greek alphabet (i.e. Alpha, Beta, Gamma, etc), “making them simple, easy to say and remember.”

“The labels do not replace existing scientific names, which convey important scientific information & will continue to be used in research. The naming system aims to prevent calling #COVID19 variants by the places where they are detected, which is stigmatising & discriminatory,” WHO said in a tweet.

WHO said that as the global public health risks posed by specific Covid-19 variants becomes better understood and evolves, it will continue to update the list of global VOIs and VOCs.

“This is necessary to adjust to the emergence of new variants, their changing epidemiology (e.g., the incidence of some variants is rapidly declining), and our understanding of their phenotypic impacts as new evidence becomes available and is shared.”

Variants no longer classified as VOCs or VOIs will continue to be monitored as part of the overall evolution of SARS-CoV-2, and may be reassessed pending new evidence indicating an increased public health risk, WHO said.

The update further said that India reported the highest numbers of new Covid-19 cases in the past week at 13,64,668, a 26 per cent decrease compared to the previous week. Other countries reporting the highest numbers of new cases are Brazil (4,20,981 new cases; 7 per cent decrease), Argentina (2,19,910 new cases; 3 per cent increase), the United States of America (1,53,587 new cases; 18 per cent decrease), and Colombia (1,50,517 new cases; 40 per cent increase).

The South-East Asia Region reported over 1.5 million new cases and over 29,000 new deaths, a 24 per cent and an 8 per cent decrease respectively compared to the previous week.

“Case incidence continued to follow a sharp decline for a third consecutive week, and death incidence decreased for the first time since early March 2021, primarily driven by trends reported in India,” the update said.

In the South-East Asia Region, the highest numbers of new deaths were reported from India (26,706 new deaths; 1.9 new deaths per 100,000; an 8 per cent decrease), Indonesia (1057 new deaths; 0.4 new deaths per 100,000; a 15 per cent decrease), and Nepal (1010 new deaths; 3.5 new deaths per 100,000; a 22 per cent decrease).

Globally, the number of new Covid-19 cases and deaths continues to decrease, with over 3.5 million new cases and 78,000 new deaths reported globally in the past week; a 15 per cent and 7 per cent decrease respectively, compared to the previous week, the update said.

The European and South-East Asia Regions reported the largest decline in new cases and deaths in the past week, while case incidence increased in the African and Western Pacific regions. “Although the number of global cases and deaths continued to decrease for a fifth and fourth consecutive week respectively, case and death incidences remain at high levels and significant increases have been reported in many countries in all regions,” the WHO update said.

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News Network
June 11,2021

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Bengaluru, June 11: Kannada poet, politician and activist Dr Siddalingaiah passed away, who had tested positive for covid-19 some time ago, passed away at a private hospital in the city today. He was 67.

Sources said that he was undergoing treatment at Manipal Hospital for post covid illness. 

Born in 1954 at Magadi, Bengaluru, Siddalingaiah is credited with starting the Dalit-Bandaya movement in Kannada and with starting the genre of Dalit writing. He is one of the founders of the Dalita Sangharsh Samiti along with B. Krishnappa.

In 1988, at the age of 34, he became a member of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly and, in 2006, chairman of the Kannada Development Authority, a post with Cabinet rank that he held until 2008.

He was head of the Department of Kannada at Bangalore University and a member of the University Syndicate of Kannada University, Hampi. He was acknowledged as a symbol of the Dalit movement and a leading public intellectual and Kannada poet. 

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News Network
June 10,2021

Patna, June 10: Covid-19 death toll in Bihar was on Wednesday revised drastically upwards by the state health department which put the total number of fatalities caused by the pandemic at 9,429.

According to the department, which had till the previous day stated the number of deaths to be under 5,500, as many as 3,951 deaths have been added to the toll after verification.

However, it was not specified as to when these additional deaths took place though a breakup was provided for all 38 districts.

Going by the fresh figures, the number of lives lost in the second wave is close to 8,000 and a nearly six times increase in the death toll since April.

Patna district bore the brunt of the outbreak, accounting for a total of 2,303 deaths. Muzaffarpur was a distant second with 609 fatalities.

Patna also accounted for the highest number of 1,070 "additional deaths reported after verification", followed by Begusarai (316), Muzaffarpur (314), East Champaran (391), and Chief Minister Nitish Kumars native Nalanda (222).

Altogether 7,15,179 people have been infected in the state so far of whom more than five lakhs caught the contagion in the last couple of months.

The health department has also revised the number of recovered persons from 7,01,234 on the previous day to 6,98,397.

The recovery rate, which was 98.70 per cent on the previous day, has also come down to 97.65 per cent following the revision in statistics which could provide fresh ammunition to the opposition, which has been alleging that the government was fudging figures to hide its failure in handling the pandemic.

Nonetheless, the state seemed to be doing well after more than a month of lockdown as, according to the health department, only 20 deaths and 589 fresh cases were reported on the day.

At present, there are 7,353 active coronavirus cases in the state.

The situation could improve further with the recent wave on the wane and vaccination drive picking up. More than 1.21 lakh people got their jabs during the day taking the total number, so far, to 1.14 crore. 

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News Network
June 8,2021

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Ottawa, June 8: A man driving a pick-up truck slammed into and killed four members of a Muslim family in the south of Canada’s Ontario province, in what police said on Monday was a “premeditated” attack.

A 20-year-old suspect wearing a vest “like body armour” fled the scene after the attack on Sunday evening, and was arrested at a mall seven kilometres (four miles) from the intersection in London, Ontario where it happened, said Detective Superintendent Paul Waight. 
 
“There is evidence that this was a planned, premeditated act, motivated by hate. It is believed that these victims were targeted because they were Muslim,” he told a news conference.

The names of the victims were not released, but they include a 74-year-old woman, a 46-year-old man, a 44-year-old woman and a 15-year-old girl — together representing three generations of the same family, according to London mayor Ed Holder.

A nine-year-old boy was also hospitalised following the attack and is recovering.

“Let me be clear, this was an act of mass murder perpetrated against Muslims, against Londoners, rooted in unspeakable hatred,” said Holder.

Identified as Nathaniel Veltman, the suspect has been charged with four counts of first degree murder and one count of attempted murder.

Waight said local authorities are also liaising with federal police and the attorney general about adding “possible terrorism charges.”

At about 8:40 pm on Sunday (0040 GMT Monday), according to police, the five family members were walking together along a sidewalk when a black pick-up truck “mounted the curb and struck” them as they waited to cross the intersection.

Waight offered few details of the investigation, but noted that the suspect’s social media postings were reviewed by police.

The attack, which brought back painful memories of a Quebec City mosque mass shooting in January 2017 and a driving rampage in Toronto that killed 10 people in April 2018, drew swift reactions.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims said in a statement it was “beyond horrified and demands justice” for the family who were just “out for a walk” on a warm spring evening.

“Hate and Islamophobia have NO place in Ontario,” tweeted Ontario Premier Doug Ford. “These heinous acts of violence must stop.”

Four years ago, a skinny 27-year-old white supremacist burst into a Quebec City mosque and unleashed a hail of bullets on worshippers who were chatting after evening prayers, killing six men and seriously wounding five others.

He methodically fired dozens of shots, retreating to a safe area to reload his nine-millimeter pistol at least four times, “like he was playing a video game,” recounted one witness at his trial.

The victims were all dual nationals who emigrated to Canada: two Algerians, two Guineans, a Moroccan and a Tunisian.

 At the time, prior to New Zealand mosques shootings in March 2019, it was the worst ever attack on Muslims in the West.

The shooter, Alexandre Bissonette, was sentenced to 40 years in prison, but that was lowered on appeal, and the Supreme Court is now reviewing his punishment.

Meanwhile a 28-year-old man who ploughed a rented van into pedestrians at high speeds three years ago in Toronto was found guilty in March of murdering 10 people and trying to kill 16 others.

Just prior to the attack, Alek Minassian posted on Facebook a reference to an online community of “involuntary celibates” whose sexual frustrations led them to embrace a misogynist ideology.

He is to be sentenced in January 2022.

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