Covid-19: What To Know About The Indian Variant

According to new reports, the corona virus strain responsible for the surge in cases in India has been detected in two African countries.

With the staggering amount of cases in India, health experts have expressed worry on the havoc it might cause in Africa owing to the very fragile conditions of the health care systems in many countries of the continent.

India posted 382,315 cases and 3,780 deaths on Wednesday, May, 5,2021. Experts have said the country’s health system has effectively collapsed.

What is the Indian variant?

The World Health Organization (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.

Described as a “variant of interest” (VOI), B.1.617 contains two notable mutations – formally known as E484Q and L452R. This has led to it sometimes being dubbed the “double mutant” strain.

B.1.617 is divided into three known sublineages which are: B.1.617.3 (The first sublineage to be detected in October 2020),  B.1.617.1 and B.1.617.2 (both of which were first detected in December 2020).  

These sublineages have some differences in their exact mutations. Notably, B.1.617.1 and B.1.617.3 have the E484Q mutation, but B.1.617.2 does not.

Where has it been detected?

As of this week, the B.1.617 has been detected in 28 countries globally according to the WHO. The variant accounts for 5.7 million infections currently surpassing previous peaks.

B.1.617 has been confirmed in Kenya. The East African country’s health ministry said Wednesday the strain had been detected in five Indian nationals who arrived in the country before a ban on flights from India took effect.

The Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) also reported the strain was discovered in travellers returning from India. Authorities quickly banned flights from India and re-introduce mandatory quarantine for all travellers arriving in the country.

South Africa was also on edge Wednesday after 14 crew members of a ship from India and docked in Durban tested positive for COVID-19.

Authorities locked down the vessel and ordered its crew to quarantine.

However, on May 8, 2021, The Health Minister confirmed that 4 cases of the Indian coronavirus variant had been recorded in South Africa.

African Union’s health chief John Nkengasong said last week that the continent was watching the situation in India with ‘total disbelief’.

“It’s better to be over-prepared and not have a similar scenario than to be surprised by the scenario. What is happening in India cannot be ignored. The increasing number of cases in India is catastrophic for any health system to bear,” he said.

Patsy Nwogu

Reporting on data-driven featured stories and investigations.

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