A Covid-19 variant spreading in India is more contagious and may be dodging vaccine protections, contributing to the country´s explosive outbreak, the World Health Organization´s chief scientist said on Saturday.
In an interview with AFP, Soumya Swaminathan warned that “the epidemiological features that we see in India today do indicate that it´s an extremely rapidly spreading variant”.
India on Saturday for the first time registered more than 4,000 Covid-19 deaths in just 24 hours, and more than 400,000 new infections.
New Delhi has struggled to contain the outbreak, which has overwhelmed its healthcare system, and many experts suspect the official death and case numbers are a gross underestimate.
Swaminathan, an Indian paediatrician and clinical scientist, said the B.1.617 variant of Covid-19, which was first detected in India last October, was clearly a contributing factor to the catastrophe unfolding in her homeland.
“There have been many accelerators that are fed into this,” the 62-year-old said, stressing that “a more rapidly spreading virus is one of them”.
The WHO recently listed B.1.617 — which counts several sub-lineages with slightly different mutations and characteristics — as a “variant of interest”.