The World Health Organization has classified the B-1617 variant of the coronavirus, which was first identified in India, as a variant of global concern (WHO). The WHO’s COVID-19 Technical Lead, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, announced Monday (May 10) that the B.1.617 virus variant, which was first identified in India, has been classified as a variant of interest.
She stated that the Epi team and WHO lab team have been discussing this variant and everything ‘we know about it in terms of transmissibility and any studies that are being done in India as well as other countries where this virus is circulating’ with the WHO virus evolution working group.
“In consultation with our virus evolution working group, as well as our Epi teams and lab teams internally, there is some available information to suggest increased transmissibility of B-1617, as such we are classifying this as a variant of concern at the global level,” she explained.
Even though preliminary studies show increased transmissibility, she says, “we need much more information about this virus variant in this lineage, so we need more targeted sequencing to be done, and to be shared in India and elsewhere so that we know how much of this virus is circulating.”
She also stated that there is a need for more information on the ongoing epidemiologic studies, which are evaluating neutralisation severity.
“As far as we know, the public health and social measures work, but we need to work even harder to control any virus variants that have demonstrated increased transmissibility,” she said, adding that WHO has no evidence to suggest that?
Our diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines are ineffective.
“This is critical. Variants will continue to emerge. We will continue to see variants of concern around the world, and we must do everything we can with the tools at our disposal to truly limit the spread, limit infections, prevent the spread, and reduce severe disease and death “She stated.
She emphasised that regardless of where one lives or what viruses are circulating, “We must ensure that we take all available precautions to keep ourselves from becoming ill. Individual level measures, such as physical separation, hand hygiene, mask use, avoiding crowded spaces, improving ventilation if you can work from home, are all available, as is ensuring that governments provide a supportive and enabling environment in which we can carry out measures that can keep us safe “She continued.