The B.1.617 COVID-19 variant, first detected in India, has now been found in 53 countries, according to the WHO, which noted that India recorded a 23 per cent decrease in the number of new cases in the last seven days but they were still the highest in the world.
The World Health Organisation’s COVID-19 Weekly Epidemiological Update, published May 25, said that over the past week, the number of new cases and deaths continued to decrease globally, with over 4.1 million new cases and 84,000 new deaths reported, a 14 per cent and 2 per cent decrease respectively compared to the previous week. According to the update, the B. 1. 617 variant, first detected in India, is now prevalent in 53 countries globally.
The B.1.617 viruses are divided in three lineages – B.1.617.1, B.1.617.2 and B.1.617.3. The update gave a break-up of the prevalence of the three sub-lineages of the B. 1. 617 variant in countries, territories and areas as of May 25. According to it, B. 1. 617. 1 is found in 41 countries, B. 1. 617. 2 in 54 countries and B. 1. 617. 3 in six. In addition, information for the B. 1. 617. 1, B. 1. 617. 2 sub-lineages was received by WHO from unofficial sources in 11 countries, including China, and will be reviewed as more information becomes available.
WHO has declared B. 1. 617 as a “variant of concern” and the update noted that this variant has “increased transmissibility”, disease severity is “under investigation”, risk of reinfection is “under investigation, possible modest reduction in neutralization activity (B. 1. 617. 1)”.
It said that the highest numbers of new COVID cases in the last seven days were reported from India (1,846,055 new cases; 23 per cent decrease), Brazil (451,424 new cases; 3 per cent increase), Argentina (213,046 new cases; 41 per cent increase), the United States of America (188,410 new cases; 20 per cent decrease), and Colombia (107,590 new cases; 7 per cent decrease).
“Despite a declining global trend over the past four weeks, incidence of COVID-19 cases and deaths remain high, and substantial increases have been observed in many countries throughout the world,” it said.
The update further said that the South-East Asia Region reported over 2 million new cases and over 32,000 new deaths, a 21 per cent decrease and a 4 per cent increase respectively compared to the previous week.
“While the overall incidence of cases continues to decrease (driven primarily by trends in India), death incidence continued to increase for a tenth consecutive week, and sizable increases have been observed in other countries in the region,” it said.
In the region, the highest numbers of new deaths were reported from India (28,982 new deaths; 2. 1 new deaths per 100,000; a 4 per cent increase), Nepal (1,297 new deaths; 4. 5 new deaths per 100,000; a 6 per cent increase), and Indonesia (1,238 new deaths; 0. 5 new deaths per 100,000; a 10 per cent increase).