A World Health Organization official said Monday it is reclassifying the Indian Sars-Cov-2 variant B.1.617 as a “variant of concern,” indicating that it’s become a global health threat. Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead for Covid-19, said the agency will provide more details in its weekly situation report on the pandemic Tuesday but added that the variant, known as B.1.617, has been found in preliminary studies to spread more easily than the original virus and there is some evidence it may able to evade vaccines.
“as such we are classifying this as a variant of concern at the global level,” she said during a press conference. “Even though there is increased transmissibility demonstrated by some preliminary studies, we need much more information about this virus variant in this lineage in all of the sub lineages, so we need more sequencing, targeted sequencing to be done.”
Five residents of a care home in Borsbeek in Antwerp province have been infected with the so-called Indian variants of Covid-19, according to the Flemish Agency for Health and Care. One of those affected has died. All of the home’s residents have been fully vaccinated.
In three of the cases involved in the new outbreak, the Indian variant has been confirmed, and it is supposed the same goes for the other two. One has since died, and another is in hospital.
Early indications from an analysis of the growth of the B.1.617 variant of the Covid-19 virus has shown it to be at least twice as infectious as the UK variant and thrice as infectious as the variant behind last year’s Covid-19 wave.
Scientists involved in the whole genome sequencing as part of the Centre’s Covid-19 genomic surveillance exercise told The New Indian Express that this conclusion is based on the growth of this mutant, as compared to others, in districts where B.1.617 has been identified along with other variants in samples collected from infected individuals.
“We have been examining this data carefully and the way this lineage of virus, also called the double mutant, is growing as compared to others is remarkable,” said a senior scientist involved in the INSACOG project, a consortium of several institutions under the National Centre for Disease Control that carry out an extensive genomic surveillance. “For the public, what needs to be communicated very clearly is that there is a greater need to double mask and maintain social distancing as this virus is highly infectious.
** Update ** Tom Wenseleers: “Based on this data, the new variant from India has a very big transmission or growth advantage,” even over B.1.1.7, he says. “It’s kind of like the U.K. variant squared.”
UK GOV: “B.1.617.2 has spread rapidly in India based on available data. There have been multiple importations to the UK and onwards transmission within the UK. In some regions, S gene target data suggests that this variant may be more frequent than is indicated by the current sequence data, due to the lag in sequencing, and may have replaced B.1.1.7 to some extent. Modelled growth estimates suggest that the variant is at least as transmissible as B.1.1.7. Further analyses are required with targeted comparator groups and improved correction for importation to refine the position on transmissibility. Some early laboratory data suggest limited antigenic change. There are insufficient data as yet to assess reinfection or vaccine effectiveness through national surveillance.”
Mobile Covid-19 testing units are being rolled out in Bolton as surge testing gets underway in the borough’s coronavirus hotspots. People in Rumworth, Deane or Great Lever are being urged to get tested at the units. Infection rates in those areas have increased, with Rumworth South seeing cases rocket by 500 per cent, with an infection rate of 359.3 per 100,000 people. In Lever Edge, part of Great Lever, cases have increased by 40 per cent.
Bolton currently has the second highest infection rate in the UK.
As of April 28, 40 cases of infection with the 20C/655Y (B.1.616) variant have been confirmed (37 in Brittany, three in other regions). The diagnosis was made on a first positive RT-PCR from a sample nasopharyngeal in 13% of them, and from a deep sample in 68% of cases. All cases have a direct or indirect link with the enhanced surveillance zone in Brittany. The majority of cases are linked to transmissions within hospital clusters in the area. A few cases have been reported in link with a chain of transmission in the community but, to date, the monitoring indicators do not suggest a significant community diffusion of this variant in the population, whether in Brittany or elsewhere. Epidemiological investigations are continuing to characterize the episode and monitor the diffusion of this variant.
“As part of the review of the regular pandemic summary safety reports for Vaxzevria, AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, the PRAC is analysing data provided by the marketing authorisation holder on cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS)  reported following vaccination. GBS is an immune system disorder that causes nerve inflammation and can result in pain, numbness, muscle weakness and difficulty walking. GBS was identified during the marketing authorisation process as a possible adverse event requiring specific safety monitoring activities. PRAC has requested the marketing authorisation holder to provide further detailed data, including an analysis of all the reported cases in the context of the next pandemic summary safety report.”
Following a rise in cases in the UK and evidence of community transmission, PHE has reclassified B.1.617.2 as a Variant of Concern (VOC). This is based on evidence which suggests this variant, first detected in India, is at least as transmissible as B.1.1.7 (the Kent variant). The other characteristics of this variant are still being investigated.
Cases of B.1.617.2 have increased to 520 from 202 over the last week and almost half the cases are related to travel or contact with a traveller. The cases are spread across the country, however, the majority of the cases are in 2 areas – the North West (predominantly Bolton) and London – and this is where we are seeing the greatest transmission.
The UK government is thought to have detected more than 40 clusters of the Indian Covid variant B.1.617 in the UK, and is on the verge of declaring it a “variant of concern”. The mutant strain is thought to be driving the massive surge of infections in India.
Alexander Gintsburg, head of the Gamaleya institute that developed Russia’s Sputnik V human vaccine, was quoted in Izvestia newspaper as saying COVID-19 was likely to hit animals next. “The next stage of the epidemic is the infection with the coronavirus of farm and domestic animals,” Gintsburg said.
Russia has produced the world’s first batch – 17,000 doses – of COVID-19 vaccines for animals, its agricultural regulator said on Friday. Russia registered Carnivac-Cov in March after tests showed it generated antibodies against COVID-19 in dogs, cats, foxes and mink.
WHO: The virus can also spread in poorly ventilated and/or crowded indoor settings, where people tend to spend longer periods of time. This is because aerosols remain suspended in the air or travel farther than 1 metre (long-range).
Nepal’s daily coronavirus case is still closely tracking that of its neighbour India, Nepal may also be in need of assistance with medical supplies and equipment to alleviate suffering within the next 7 days.
“Nepal Health Ministry says situation unmanageable as hospitals run out of beds The country’s health system cracks as coronavirus cases surge, crossing the 5,000 mark.” Kathmandu Post Report
How is this graph even possible? For more than one year the global death toll for Sars-Cov-2 has oscillated between ~5,000 deaths a day to ~20,000 deaths a day creating a pattern that is almost ECG like in its uniformity. Answers on a postcard please, because we do not see anything natural about this graph.
A two-week coronavirus lockdown has been introduced in Cyprus from 26th March 2021. Cyprus has seen a surge in coronavirus infections over the last month, putting pressure on its healthcare system. Since March 2020, Cyprus has recorded over 60,000 cases of COVID-19, and some 300 deaths. The current daily case rate per million people is nearly 1,000.
Businesses including hairdressers, gyms, theatres and cafés will have to shut, along with retail businesses except for food and beverage or essential services.