“We classify it as a variant of global concern,” Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO COVID-19 technical officer, said in a briefing. “Some available information suggests increased transmissibility.”
India’s coronavirus infections and deaths hit near daily record levels on Monday, increasingly calling on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to lock down the world’s second most populous country.
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WHO said the predominant lineage of B.1.617 was first identified in India last December, although an earlier version was spotted in October 2020.
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The variant has already spread to other countries and many countries have decided to reduce or restrict movements from India.
Van Kerkhove said more information on the variant and its three lines would be available on Tuesday.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the WHO Foundation is launching a “Together for India” appeal to raise funds to purchase oxygen, medicine and protective equipment for health workers.