The B.1.617 variant of Covid-19, first found in India in October last year, had been detected in sequences uploaded “from 44 countries in all six WHO regions”, informed the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday.
“As of 11 May, over 4500 sequences have been uploaded to GISAID (platform of data sharing mechanism for influenza) and assigned to B.1.617 from 44 countries in all six WHO regions, and WHO has received reports of detections from five additional countries,” WHO said in its weekly epidemiological update on the pandemic. The WHO report also said that it has received “reports of detections from five additional countries.
A senior WHO official had said on Monday the coronavirus variant B.1.617 first identified in India last year has been classified as a “variant of global concern”, with some preliminary studies showing that it spreads more easily.
“B.1.617 virus variant that was first identified in India has been classified as a variant of interest by WHO,” said Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, Technical lead COVID-19 at WHO.
Dr Kerkhove added that WHO needs much more information about this B1617 variant and all of the sub-lineages. “Our Epi teams and our lab teams internally, there is some available information to suggest increased transmissibility of B1617, as such we are classifying this as a variant of concern at the global level,” she said.
The B.1.617 variant is the fourth variant to be designated as being of “global concern”. India reported 3,29,942 new COVID-19 cases, and 3,876 deaths in the last 24 hours, the Union Health Ministry informed on Tuesday.