COVID-19 REINFECTION

India's coronavirus mutation of 'global concern' warns WHO

India is suffering from one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the world, with daily cases rising by almost 330,000 Monday.
India is suffering from one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the world, with daily cases rising by almost 330,000 Monday. Arun SANKAR AFP

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned a coronavirus strain first detected in India last year is of “global concern" – with preliminary studies showing it spreads more easily.

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The global health body said the so-called B.1.617 mutation, which appears to cause more severe illness, had already spread to more than 30 countries.

Small-sample lab studies suggested antibodies had less impact on the variant, WHO lead epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove told reporters Monday.

It was too early to say whether the variant might be more resistant to vaccines, the WHO said.

"Based on current data, the Covid-19 vaccines remain effective at preventing disease and death in people infected with this variant," it said in a statement.

India is suffering from one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the world, with daily cases rising by almost 330,000 Monday.

Scientists are working to determine whether the variant is behind the surge that is causing thousands of deaths every day.

With hospitals and crematoriums overwhelmed, experts say the real virus figures may be higher than those being reported.

In response, the WHO is launching an appeal under the hashtag "TogetherForIndia" to raise funds to support its work in the country, including the purchase of oxygen, personal protective equipment and medicine.

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