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India's COVID-19 Death Toll Surpasses 250,000. WHO Concerned

  • COVID-19 variant first detected in India found in 44 countries, says WHO.

    COVID-19 variant first detected in India found in 44 countries, says WHO. | Photo: Twitter @AJEnglish

Published 12 May 2021

India's COVID-19 death toll crossed the 250,000-mark as the total number of cases surpassed 23 million on Wednesday.

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Wednesday that a variant of COVID-19 behind the recent surge in India's explosive outbreak had been found in dozens of countries all over the world.


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The UN health agency said the B.1.617 variant of COVID-19, first found in India in October, had been detected in more than 4,500 samples uploaded to an open-access database "from 44 countries in all six WHO regions." "WHO has received reports of detections from five additional countries," the agency's weekly epidemiological update on the pandemic added.

On Wednesday, India reported a record number of people killed by the coronavirus in 24 hours, pushing its overall death toll over a quarter million, while a leading virologist said it was too early to determine if the infection spiral had reached a peak.

According to health ministry data, deaths from COVID-19 swelled by 4,205, while daily coronavirus cases rose by 348,421, with India's overall number of cases surging past 23 million. Even then, experts believe the official numbers grossly underestimate the real scale of the epidemic's impact, and actual deaths and infections could be five to ten times higher.

India's COVID-19 infection curve may be showing early signs of flattening. Still, the decline in the number of new infections is likely to be slow, said Shahid Jameel, a top Indian virologist.

"It is still too early to say whether we have reached the peak," he was quoted as saying by the Indian Express newspaper. "There is some indication of the cases plateauing. But we must not forget that this is a very high plateau. We seem to be plateauing around 400,000 cases a day."

It also said that Britain had reported the most significant number of COVID-19 cases caused by the variant outside of India.

On Monday, the WHO declared B.1.617 - which counts three so-called sub-lineages with slightly different mutations and characteristics - as a "variant of concern." Therefore, it was added to the list containing three other variants of COVID-19 - those first detected in Britain, Brazil, and South Africa. 

The WHO explained Wednesday that B.1.617 was added to the list because of its apparent capacity to spread more quickly than the original coronavirus, pointing to the "rapid increases in prevalence in multiple countries." It also pointed to "preliminary evidence" that the variant was more resistant to treatment.

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