India is now experiencing a catastrophic rise in COVID with almost 400,000 cases per day and nearly 23 million total cases and 250,000 deaths, second only to the U.S. Medical experts and journalists in the country and globally believe the actual numbers are believed to be much higher - maybe three-times higher.
"WHO found that resurgence and acceleration of Covid-19 transmission in India had several potential contributing factors, including increase in the proportion of cases of SARS-CoV-2 variants with potentially increased transmissibility", it said. She also said that this new variant is not the only one circulating in India, noting that the British B.1.1.7 variant, which has been shown to have increased transmissibility, is also present there.
However, countries must continue to be vigilent to limit the spread of variants, because "we will continue to see variants emerge", said Van Kerkhove.
The variant has two mutations in the spike protein of the coronavirus that allows it to attach to cells. The UK Prime Minister revealed there are now "860 or so" cases in England of the VOC detected in India, "but there may be more" as the variant "may be considerably more transmissible".
WATCH Former RI Director of Health Michael Fine on GoLocal LIVE today at 1:30 PM Discuss the impact of the Indian variant on RI.
American health officials dubbed B.1.617 a "variant of interest" last week, due to its worrisome mutations.
Indian coronavirus infections and deaths held close to record daily highs on Monday, increasing calls for the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to lock down the world's second-most populous country.
It added that it has received reports of cases in five additional countries, and preliminary evidence that the variant spreads more easily than others.
The WHO has said the predominant lineage of B.1.617 was first identified in India in December, although an earlier version was spotted in October 2020.
Soumya Swaminathan, WHO chief scientist, said studies were under way in India to examine the variant's transmissibility, the severity of disease it causes and the response of antibodies in people who have been vaccinated. "We must be vigilant because the threat of this virus remains real and new variants pose a potentially lethal danger, including the one first identified in India which is of increasing concern here in the United Kingdom", said Johnson.
"What we know now is that the vaccines work, the diagnostics work, the same treatments that are used for the regular virus work", she told journalists.