Indian Covid-19 variant found in 44 countries in all 6 WHO regions

News Network
May 12, 2021

The World Health Organization said Wednesday that a variant of Covid-19 behind the acceleration of India's explosive outbreak has been found in dozens of countries all over the world.

The UN health agency said the B.1.617 variant of Covid-19, first found in India in October, had been detected in more than 4,500 samples uploaded to an open-access database "from 44 countries in all six WHO regions".

"And WHO has received reports of detections from five additional countries," it said in its weekly epidemiological update on the pandemic.

Outside of India, it said that Britain had reported the largest number of Covid cases caused by the variant.

Earlier this week, the WHO declared B.1.617 -- which counts three so-called sub-lineages with slightly different mutations and characteristics -- as a "variant of concern".

It was therefore added to the list containing three other variants of Covid-19 -- those first detected in Britain, Brazil and South Africa.

The variants are seen as more dangerous than the original version of the virus because they are either being more transmissible, deadly or able to get past some vaccine protections.

‘RAPID INCREASE’

The WHO explained Wednesday that B.1.617 was added to the list because it appears to be transmitting more easily than the original virus, pointing to the "rapid increases in prevalence in multiple countries".

WHO also pointed to "preliminary evidence" that the variant was more resistant to treatment with the monoclonal antibody Bamlanivimab, and also highlighted early lab studies indicating "limited reduction in neutralisation by antibodies".

It stressed, though, that "real-world impacts" on the effectiveness of vaccines against the variant for instance "may be limited".

WHO said the spread of B.1.617, alongside other more transmittable variants, appeared to be one of several factors fuelling India's dramatic surge in new cases and deaths.

India -- a country of 1.3 billion people -- is the world's second-most infected after the United States with nearly 23 million Covid-19 cases, and is currently recording more than 300,000 new cases and close to 4,000 deaths each day.

The new surge in cases has ravaged major cities, including the capital New Delhi and financial hub Mumbai, pushing hospitals to breaking point and leading to severe shortages in oxygen and beds.

"WHO found that resurgence and acceleration of Covid-19 transmission in India had several potential contributing factors, including increase in the proportion of cases of SARS-CoV-2 variants with potentially increased transmissibility," it said.

It also pointed to "several religious and political mass gathering events which increased social mixing; and, under-use of and reduced adherence to public health and social measures".

"The exact contributions of each of these factors on increased transmission in India are not well understood."

WHO stressed that so far, only 0.1 percent of positive Covid tests in India had been genetically sequenced and uploaded to the GISAID database to identify the variant in question.

By the end of April, B.1.617.1 and B.1.617.2 accounted for 21 and seven percent respectively of all sequenced samples from India, it said.

In addition, other more contagious variants are also spreading in the country, including B.1.1.7, which was first detected in Britain. 

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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 15,2021

hubballi.jpg

Hubballi, June 15: A Hubballi-bound Indigo plane suffered a tyre burst while landing here, airport authorities said on Tuesday.

However, all the passengers and crew members were safe.

In an official statement, Indigo Airlines said, "IndiGo ATR operating 6e-7979 from Kannur to Hubballi reported Tyre Burst at Hubli upon arrival yesterday (Monday) evening. All passengers and crew are safe. Aircraft is currently under maintenance checks at Hubballi."

According to an official at the airport, the plane had touched down first 8.03 pm on Monday but due to crosswind, it took off immediately and went around. It landed again at about 8.35 pm.

"Probably due to hard landing and crosswind, the tyre burst," the official said.

All passengers were disembarked at the airport itself and the runway was cleared by 2 am on Tuesday.

"The flight operations are now normal. We have informed the ATC about the incident," the official added. 

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News Network
June 1,2021

Bengaluru, June 1: Universities in Karnataka have collectively urged the state government to vaccinate college students at the earliest and said that they will be unable to start regular or offline classes for the academic year 2021-22 without students being vaccinated.

The varsities stuck to the online mode of teaching during the previous year. Their demand comes even as students going abroad for higher education have sought vaccination at the earliest in the wake of foreign universities mandating the same. 

Fr V M Abraham, Vice-Chancellor, Christ University said students can be invited to campus only if they had completed both doses of vaccination. “The university is even planning to conduct convocation only after all students are vaccinated. I think it is justified in the interest of everyone’s health and safety. Until then, the institution will stick to online classes,” he said.

M R Doreswamy, Chancellor, PES University had a similar view. Whether a student was from within the state or outside the country, vaccination should be mandatory before starting offline classes, he said. While urging the government to ensure vaccination for all college students at the earliest, Doreswamy said offline classes were necessary for effective learning. “Online classes cannot replace offline classes. It can only be a temporary solution,” he observed. 

Many universities in Karnataka, especially those in Bengaluru, also see a number of foreign students. “Those travelling to India for studies will be required to produce proof of vaccination,” said Dr N V H Krishnan, Registrar, Jain Deemed-to-be University. Once the lockdown is lifted, the university will give an option to students to choose between offline and online classes, he added. 

Government universities have different challenge to face. Many of them cater to a large number of rural students. Since rural Karnataka is now seeing a spike in cases, faculty in these universities have also urged the government to vaccinate students at the earliest. 

“Unless the government takes initiative in vaccinating all these students, it will be a challenge to conduct offline classes,” said University of Mysore Vice-Chancellor G Hemantha Kumar. While the university can comfortably conduct online classes for about eight weeks in a semester, it will have to go for offline classes for the rest. “Since there will be practical work, students need to come to the campus,” he said.

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