By Pierre Briançon
The World Health Organization has classified a variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 detected in India as one of “concern at a global level,” based on studies showing increased risks of transmissibility. Infections and deaths remained near their record highs in India on Monday.
The Indian variant, known as B.1.617, is the fourth variant identified in the category requiring heightened tracking, after the U.K., South African and Brazilian ones. It has already spread to other countries.
India’s daily coronavirus cases rose by 329,942 on Tuesday, keeping the seven-day average at a record high. The pandemic has killed 250,000 people to date, and India now accounts for one in every three coronavirus disease deaths worldwide, according to a Reuters count.
The impact of the pandemic in India has been magnified by a dearth of oxygen cylinders and other medical gear, with hospitals both overwhelmed and unable to provide proper care to COVID-19-infected patients. Governments around the world have begun in recent weeks to send equipment to the country.
Cases of mucormycosis , a rare black fungus that invades the brain, with a high mortality rate, have appeared among vulnerable COVID-19 patients in India, given more chance to spread due to the current situation in hospitals.
The outlook: More information about the Indian variant is due to be released this week, the WHO said. But many countries , such as Canada, Australia, the U.K. and Italy, have already banned entry to visitors from India.