The Citizen (Gauteng)
India strain ‘a problem for the whole world’
Variants which accumulate a lot of mutations may become resistant to the current vaccines. Soumya Swaminathan WHO’s chief scientist
A Covid-19 variant spreading in India is more contagious and it is feared it could be dodging some vaccine protections, contributing to the country’s explosive outbreak, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) chief scientist said.
Soumya Swaminathan warned that “the epidemiological features that we see in India today do indicate that it’s an extremely rapidly spreading variant”.
India on Saturday for the first time registered more than 4 000 Covid-19 deaths in just 24 hours, and more than 400 000 new infections.
New Delhi has struggled to contain the outbreak, which has overwhelmed its healthcare system, and many experts suspect the official death and case numbers are a gross underestimate.
Swaminathan, an Indian paediatrician and clinical scientist, said the B.1.617 variant of Covid-19, which was first detected in India last October, was clearly a contributing factor to the catastrophe unfolding in her homeland.
Several national health authorities, including in the United States and Britain, have said they consider B.1.617 a variant of concern, and Swaminathan said she expected the WHO to soon follow suit.
The surge in India is frightening not only due to the horrifying number of people who are sick and dying there, but also because the exploding infection numbers dramatically increase the chances of new and more dangerous variants emerging.
“The more the virus is replicating and spreading and transmitting, the more chances are that... mutations will develop and adapt,” Swaminathan said.
“Variants which accumulate a lot of mutations may ultimately become resistant to the current vaccines that we have,” she warned.
“That’s going to be a problem for the whole world.” –