Geneva: The Indian Coronavirus variant, known as B1617, has been declared as a “variant of global concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO), the media reported.
The B1617 variant was, till now, deemed a ‘variant of interest’ by the WHO.
The global health body, in a press conference held on Monday, said preliminary studies show the B1617 mutation spreads more easily than other variants and the original virus. The variant has already spread to more than 30 countries, according to the WHO.
The WHO had already classified the UK (B117), South African (B1351) and Brazilian (P1) variants of Covid-19 as “variants of concern.”
A mutation is elevated from a “variant of interest” to a “variant of concern” (VOC) when it shows evidence of fulfilling at least one of several criteria, including easy transmission, more severe illness, reduced neutralisation by antibodies or reduced effectiveness of treatment and vaccines.
“And as such we are classifying this as a variant of concern at the global level,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead for Covid-19, 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 sublineages, so we need more sequencing, targeted sequencing to be done.”
The WHO also said that there is some evidence that the B1617 variant may also be able to evade some of the protections provided by vaccines.
However, it added that “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.
The WHO said last week it was closely following at least 10 coronavirus variants across the world, including the B1617. The variant was previously labeled a “variant of interest” as more studies were needed to completely understand its significance, Van Kerkhove said, the CNBC reported.
“What it means for anybody at home is any of the SARS-CoV-2 viruses circulating can infect you and spread and everything in that sense is of concern,” Van Kerkhove said.
“So, all of us at home, no matter where we live, no matter what virus is circulating, we need to make sure that we take all of the measures at hand to prevent ourselves from getting sick,” she added.