Indian covid variant found in at least 17 countries, says WHO

News Network
April 28, 2021

Geneva, Apr 28: The World Health Organization said Tuesday that a variant of Covid-19 feared to be contributing to a surge in coronavirus cases in India has been found in over a dozen countries.

The UN health agency said the B.1.617 variant of Covid-19 first found in India had as of Tuesday been detected in over 1,200 sequences uploaded to the GISAID open-access database "from at least 17 countries".

"Most sequences were uploaded from India, the United Kingdom, USA and Singapore," the WHO said in its weekly epidemiological update on the pandemic.

The WHO recently listed B.1.617 -- which counts several sub-lineages with slightly different mutations and characteristics -- as a "variant of interest".

But so far it has stopped short of declaring it a "variant of concern".

That label would indicate that it is more dangerous than the original version of the virus by for instance being more transmissible, deadly or able to dodge vaccine protections.

India is facing surging new cases and deaths in the pandemic, and fears are rising that the variant could be contributing to the unfolding catastrophe.

The explosion in infections in India -- 350,000 new cases were recorded there on Tuesday alone -- has driven a surge in global cases to 147.7 million.

The virus has now killed more than 3.1 million people worldwide.

The WHO acknowledged that its preliminary modelling based on sequences submitted to GISAID indicates "that B.1.617 has a higher growth rate than other circulating variants in India, suggesting potential increased transmissibility".

It stressed that other variants circulating at the same time were also showing increased transmissibility, and that the combination "may be playing a role in the current resurgence in this country."

"Indeed, studies have highlighted that the spread of the second wave has been much faster than the first," the WHO said.

It highlighted though that "other drivers" could be contributing to the surge, including lax adherence to public health measures as well as mass gatherings.

"Further investigation is needed to understand the relative contribution of these factors," it said.

The UN agency also stressed that "further robust studies" into the characteristics of B.1.617 and other variants, including impacts on transmissibility, severity and the risk of reinfection, were "urgently needed".

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News Network
April 28,2021

Geneva, Apr 28: The World Health Organization said Tuesday that a variant of Covid-19 feared to be contributing to a surge in coronavirus cases in India has been found in over a dozen countries.

The UN health agency said the B.1.617 variant of Covid-19 first found in India had as of Tuesday been detected in over 1,200 sequences uploaded to the GISAID open-access database "from at least 17 countries".

"Most sequences were uploaded from India, the United Kingdom, USA and Singapore," the WHO said in its weekly epidemiological update on the pandemic.

The WHO recently listed B.1.617 -- which counts several sub-lineages with slightly different mutations and characteristics -- as a "variant of interest".

But so far it has stopped short of declaring it a "variant of concern".

That label would indicate that it is more dangerous than the original version of the virus by for instance being more transmissible, deadly or able to dodge vaccine protections.

India is facing surging new cases and deaths in the pandemic, and fears are rising that the variant could be contributing to the unfolding catastrophe.

The explosion in infections in India -- 350,000 new cases were recorded there on Tuesday alone -- has driven a surge in global cases to 147.7 million.

The virus has now killed more than 3.1 million people worldwide.

The WHO acknowledged that its preliminary modelling based on sequences submitted to GISAID indicates "that B.1.617 has a higher growth rate than other circulating variants in India, suggesting potential increased transmissibility".

It stressed that other variants circulating at the same time were also showing increased transmissibility, and that the combination "may be playing a role in the current resurgence in this country."

"Indeed, studies have highlighted that the spread of the second wave has been much faster than the first," the WHO said.

It highlighted though that "other drivers" could be contributing to the surge, including lax adherence to public health measures as well as mass gatherings.

"Further investigation is needed to understand the relative contribution of these factors," it said.

The UN agency also stressed that "further robust studies" into the characteristics of B.1.617 and other variants, including impacts on transmissibility, severity and the risk of reinfection, were "urgently needed".

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News Network
April 30,2021

israel.jpg

Jerusalem, Apr 30: Dozens of people were killed in a crush at a religious bonfire festival in Israel on Friday, medics said, in what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described as a "heavy disaster".

Media reports initially said a section of stadium seating had collapsed at the Lag B'Omer event in Mount Meron in the Galilee. But officials later said it appeared that the casualties had been asphyxiated or trampled in a stampede.

Tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews had gathered at the tomb of the 2nd-century sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai for annual commemorations that include all-night prayer and dance.

It is thought to be one of the largest gatherings of people - certainly in Israel and perhaps farther afield - since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic more than a year ago.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service said 103 people had been injured, including dozens fatally. Channel 12 TV put the number of dead at 38. Police shut down the site and ordered revellers to be evacuated by bus.

The tomb is considered to be one of the holiest sites in the Jewish world and it is an annual pilgrimage site.

Videos posted on social media showed chaotic scenes as Ultra-Orthodox men clambered through gaps in sheets of torn corrugated iron to escape the crush, as police and paramedics tried to reach the wounded.

Bodies lay on stretchers in a corridor, completely covered in foil blankets.

On Twitter, Netanyahu called it a "heavy disaster" and added: "We are all praying for the wellbeing of the casualties."

The gathering had been held in defiance of health officials who had worries that crowding could pose a COVID-19 risk.

Private bonfires at Mount Meron were banned last year due to coronavirus restrictions, but lockdown measures were eased this year amid Israel's rapid COVID-19 vaccination programme that has seen more than 50% of the population fully vaccinated.

Police said on Thursday that they had arrested two people for disrupting officers' efforts to keep order at the site. 

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News Network
April 27,2021

Makkah, Apr 27: The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah reiterated that parents are prohibited from bringing along their children for Umrah or prayers at the Grand Mosque in Makkah during the holy month of Ramadan.

The ministry said that this is part of the regulations it announced regarding the issuance of permits for Umrah and prayer at the Grand Mosque during Ramadan.

The regulations include obtaining a permit for Umrah and prayer from Eatmarna and Tawakkalna applications; immunization through two dozes of vaccination or completion of 14 days after taking the first dose of vaccination or recovery from the coronavirus infection.

The ministry said that vehicles of only those who have a permit will be allowed to enter the central Haram area. The regulations also stipulate that vehicles of those who have a permit will be allowed to enter various entry points to Makkah only within the stipulated period of time specified in the permit.

With regard to performing Umrah, the ministry earlier confirmed that the permitted ages for Umrah from within the Kingdom range between 18 and 70 years as per the instructions of the Ministry of Health.

It is noteworthy that the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah had previously stated that all prayers of the day could be reserved, and prayers could not be reserved for more than one day at the same time, and after the expiry of the permit of one day, it can be booked for another day.
 

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