British officials could say one of the new coronavirus strains first found in India is a “variant of concern,” the BBC said, as India’s main opposition leader Rahul Gandhi , said the deadly second wave of COVID-19 that would sweep the country would be “devastating not only for our people, but also for the rest of the world.”
The BBC said scientists in the UK have marked evidence that the Indian variant of the virus is spreading faster than its original version, Reuters news agency reported on Friday.
Scientists have recommended that a version of the variant first found in India, known as B.1.617.2, be designated as a “variant of concern,” said the BBC, which added more than 500 cases. of the variant, up from 202 last week.
Public Health England (PHE), which postponed the release of its weekly data on variants on Thursday, made no immediate comment on the report.
Jeff Barrett, director of the COVID-19 Genomics Initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said a large number of B.1.617.2 cases in the UK and around the world were “consistent with making it more transmissible. than previous versions of the previous course ‘s virus “.
“(It’s) possibly as transmissible as Kent’s B.117 variant which is widespread in the UK,” Barrett told BBC radio, referring to the strain found in the south-east of England which fed the second COVID-19 wave in Britain.
The original Indian variant, B.1.617, was first detected in October, but Public Health England (PHE) has classified three different subtypes, all with slightly different mutations.
The WHO says the variant has already spread to more than a dozen countries, forcing countries to cut or restrict India’s movements.
Other variants of concern include variants first identified in Kent, southeastern England, as well as in South Africa and Brazil, and Barrett said there had been reassuring evidence from real studies on the effectiveness of vaccines.
“This makes a relatively positive picture that vaccines will continue to be effective,” he said.
“So obviously for new variants like this, we have to do additional experiments and get solid evidence one way or another.”
Famous U.S. disease modeler Chris Murray of the University of Washington said the large magnitude of infections in India in a short period of time suggests that an “escape variant” can outweigh any immunity. prior to natural infections.
Infections now spread from overcrowded cities to remote rural villages that host nearly 70% of the 1.3 billion population.
While northern and western India bear the brunt of the disease, southern India now seems to be becoming the new epicenter. The proportion of the five southern states in the country’s daily increase in infections increased from 28% to 33% during the first seven days of May, according to the data.
“Explosive wave threatens India and world”
Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi, the main leader of the Indian Congress party, implored Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a letter to prepare for another national shutdown, speed up a nationwide vaccination program and monitor scientist of the virus and its mutations.
Gandhi said the world’s second most populous nation had a responsibility in “a globalized and interconnected world” to stop the “explosive” growth of COVID-19 within its borders.
“India is home to one in six humans on the planet. The pandemic has shown that our size, genetic diversity and complexity make India fertile ground for the virus to mutate rapidly, transforming into a more contagious and dangerous form, ”Gandhi wrote.
“Allowing the uncontrollable spread of the virus in our country will be devastating not only for our people, but also for the rest of the world.”
On Friday, India reported another record daily increase in coronavirus cases, 414,188, bringing the total number of new cases a week to 1.57 million. Deaths from COVID-19 increased by 3,915 to 234,083.
Medical experts say the actual extent of COVID-19 in India is five to ten times the official sum.
Last week, India reported an additional 1.5 million infections and recorded the number of deaths daily as its hospitals run out of beds and medical oxygen.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, it has reported 21.49 million cases and 234,083 deaths. It currently has 3.6 million active cases.
Modi has been widely criticized for failing to act earlier to suppress the second wave, after religious festivals and political rallies attracted tens of thousands of people in recent weeks and became “super-publicity” events.
His government has also been criticized for lifting social restrictions too soon after the first wave and for delays in the country’s vaccination program, which according to medical experts is India’s only hope to control the second wave of COVID -19.
Although India is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, it struggles to produce and distribute enough doses to curb the COVID-19 wave.
Modi stressed that Indian states must maintain vaccination rates. Although the country has administered at least 157 million doses of vaccine, its inoculation rate has dropped dramatically in recent days.
“Having reached a rate of about 4 million a day, we are now down to 2.5 million a day due to the shortage of vaccines,” said Amartya Lahiri, a professor of economics at Columbia University. British in the newspaper Mint.
“The goal of 5 million a day is the lower limit of what we have to achieve, because even at this rate it will take a year to get two doses to everyone. Unfortunately, the situation is very macabre.”
Meanwhile, India’s healthcare system is collapsing under the weight of patients, with hospitals running out of beds and medical oxygen. Morgues and crematoria cannot withstand the death toll and makeshift funeral pyres occur in parks and car parks.
In the southern city of Chennai, only one in 100 beds with oxygen and two in 100 beds in intensive care units (ICUs) were vacant on Thursday, with a vacancy rate of more than 20% every two weeks. , according to government data. .
In India’s technology capital, Bengaluru, also in the south, only 23 of the 590 ICU beds were empty and only 1 in 50 fan beds were vacant, according to officials, an impending crisis.
The test positivity rate (the percentage of people tested who have the disease) in the city, of 12.5 million, has tripled to almost 39% since Wednesday, compared to 13% two years ago weeks, showed the data.
Bengaluru has 325,000 active cases of COVID-19, with a demand for intensive beds and high-dependency units (HDU) more than 20 times, said HM Prasanna, president of the Association of Private Hospitals and Residences in the state of Karnataka, which includes Bengaluru.
“All patients who come to the hospital need an ICU or an HDU bed … That’s why patients run from one hospital to another in search of an ICU bed,” he said.
“There is also a meager supply of medical oxygen … Most small hospitals that now cannot acquire oxygen on a daily basis refuse to admit patients with COVID.”