The World Health Organisation has welcomed a plateau in the global number of coronavirus cases and deaths but has also raised concerns about the emergence of global variants of COVID-19. The comments come as the United Kingdom and other European countries further ease restrictions.
The World Health Organisation says the coronavirus variant first identified in India last year was being classified as a variant of global concern, with some preliminary studies showing that it spreads more easily.
The B.1.617 variant is the fourth variant to be designated as being of global concern and requiring heightened tracking and analysis.
The others are those first detected in Britain, South Africa and Brazil.
Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead on COVID-19, says there is some information suggesting increased transmissibility of the B.1.617 variant.
"In consultation with our virus evolution working group and our Epi teams and our lab teams internally, there is some available information to suggest increased transmissibility of B.1.617, there is a pre-print that is out, so this is a paper that has not undergone peer review and it's about the limited number of patients suggesting that there is some reduced neutralization and as such, we are classifying this as a variant of concern at the global level."
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