Indian COVID-19 variant has spread to 49 countries, WHO says

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NEW DELHI, INDIA - 2021/03/24: A Health worker wearing a personal protective equipment (PPE) takes a swab sample from a passenger for coronavirus Covid-19 rapid antigen test to curb the spread of coronavirus pandemic at New Delhi Railway Station. In Delhi random testing of Covid-19 Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) and (RT-PCR), is conducted across airports, Railway and Bus station as precautionary measures to prevent and control the surge of Covid19 cases in Delhi in regards to people coming to the city from other states. (Photo by Naveen Sharma/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The World Health Organization announced on Wednesday that the COVID-19 variant first detected in India has spread to 49 countries as the Asian nation continues struggling to cope with the latest wave of infections and deaths.

The virus variant causing devastation in India has already been detected in several African countries, notably Kenya, South Africa and Uganda.

FILE PHOTO: A health worker wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) takes a swab sample from a passenger for coronavirus rapid antigen test to curb the spread of coronavirus pandemic at New Delhi Railway Station. (Photo by Naveen Sharma/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

News of the variant spreading to more countries came as India reported 4,205 COVID-19 deaths, a new one-day record, which pushed the country’s death toll past 250,000. The country’s total number of infections also went past the 23 million mark after it reported 348,421 new cases.

On Monday, the U.N. health agency declared that the variant, which first identified last October, was one of “concern at the global level” as there was available information to suggest it transmitted more easily.

As such, the B.1.617 was added to the list containing three other variants of COVID-19 — those first detected in Britain, Brazil and South Africa.

Even though the WHO referenced early studies “suggesting that there is some reduced neutralization”, it stressed that it was far too early to interpret that to mean that the variant might have more resistance to vaccine protections.

The second wave of the outbreak in India, one of the worst in the world, erupted in February, overwhelming hospitals and medical staff, as well as crematoriums and mortuaries.

Experts have warned that the official figures for cases and fatalities are significantly lower than the actual figures.

The situation in India has attracted global concern and took a turn for the worse after more than 100 bodies were found floating in the Ganges River sparking anger and speculation they died from COVID-19.

Indian state leaders have pushed for vaccines to halt the second wave and the devastation it has wreaked, urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi to stop exporting doses, boost production and help them procure urgent supplies from overseas.

(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)

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