The Citizen (Gauteng)

India strain ‘a problem for the whole world’

- Nina Larson

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.” –

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