Covid: Nottingham surge testing after Indian variant rise

The B-1617 variant of the coronavirus, first identified in India, has been classified as a variant of concern at the global level by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

"There have been many accelerators that are fed into this", the 62-year-old said, stressing that "a more rapidly spreading virus is one of them".

He said the Network for Genomic Surveillance in SA (NGS-SA) had confirmed that two variants of concern, other than the already dominant B.1.351 variant, had been detected.

"We are monitoring all of these variants extremely closely and have taken the decision to classify this as a "variant of concern" because the indications are that this VOC-21APR-02 is a more transmissible variant".

The WHO's chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan agreed.

The most glaring development was that the United Kingdom variant had been detected in a sequence from a community transmission.

But she insisted that the variant alone could not be blamed for the dramatic surge in cases and deaths seen in India, pointing to "huge social mixing and large gatherings" in recent months.

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The devastating wave has overwhelmed India's healthcare system, and experts have said official figures for cases and fatalities are much lower than the actual numbers.

"It was endemic (and) probably gradually increasing", she said, decrying that "those early signs were missed until it reached the point at which it was taking off vertically".

"We need everybody's help with this".

He also asked the authorities concerned to conduct the maximum number of Covid-19 tests in the bordering areas to prevent the transmission of the Indian variant of the deadly virus.

Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization technical lead on COVID-19, spoke to reporters on Monday about the variant first identified in India, where more than 360,000 new cases are being reported each day.

The UN health agency said the B.1.617 variant of COVID-19 first found in India last October seemed to be transmitting more easily than the original version of the virus, and might possibly have some increased resistance to vaccine protections.

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