Science

Coronavirus: the Indian variant present in 17 countries, India still suffering

At least 17 countries have experienced infections with the so-called Indian variant of the coronavirus, from a country still overwhelmed by an epidemic outbreak and where international aid has started to flow.

The B.1.617 variant, more commonly known as the Indian variant because of its first occurrence in India, has been detected in more than 1,200 genome sequences in “at least 17 countries”, the World Health Organization (WHO) said. overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday.

Most of the samples “come from India, the United Kingdom, the United States and Singapore,” the WHO said in its weekly report on the pandemic. In recent days, the variant has also been reported in several European countries (Belgium, Switzerland, Greece, Italy).

“B.1.617 has a higher growth rate than the other variants circulating in India, which suggests greater contagiousness”, also assures the WHO, even if it left it in the category of “variants of ‘interest’ and not ‘variants of concern’.

India, the fourth most bereaved country (behind the United States, Brazil and Mexico), is now close to 200,000 dead. She again experienced an impressive new total of infections (350,000) for one day on Tuesday.

The crematoriums know no truce, their chimneys crack and the metal frames of the ovens melt under the intensity of the heat. Wood is also starting to run out in some establishments, and families are asked to bring their own fuel.

– Restrictions lifted in the Netherlands –

“We start at sunrise and cremations continue beyond midnight,” a priest told AFP, gazing into the flames of the pyres and piles of smoking ashes which, not long ago, were human beings before Covid-19 overwhelms them.

Many crematoriums and cemeteries say the official death toll from the virus falls short of reality, given the influx of bodies they see parading.

The first shipment of British medical aid, including 100 ventilators and 95 oxygen concentrators, landed in Delhi on Tuesday. France, Canada, the United States and even Germany have announced that they will also provide aid to India.

All over the world, the “Indian” variant still raises questions. According to the WHO, it is not yet known whether “the reports of high mortality are due to the increased severity of the variant, the straining of the capacity of the health system due to the rapid increase in number of cases, or both “.

Air cuts with India are increasing. Australia decided Tuesday to suspend flights from India until May 15, while Canada, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and New Zealand have already suspended or restricted their flights.

Belgium has announced the closure of its borders to India but also to Brazil and South Africa, where two other variants are rife. Iceland for its part has banned entry to travelers from sixteen countries considered to be “high risk” areas, such as France.

The presence of the Indian variant worries in Europe at a time when the Old Continent is breathing a little better after long months of restrictions. On Wednesday, it is the turn of the Netherlands to lift its curfew and authorize the reopening of the terraces.

– “Breath of fresh air” in Mexico –

Vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear masks when they are outdoors, except in crowds. Their president Joe Biden praised Tuesday evening the “extraordinary progress” made in recent months by the United States in the face of the epidemic.

In Mexico too, the epidemic is receding. In 14 weeks, the number of weekly deaths fell from 9,549 to 1,621, while the number of hospitalizations fell to 6,000 after peaking in January at around 27,000. Estimated cases of contamination fell from around 112,000 to less than 19,000 during the same period.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, himself infected in February, said he was “encouraged” by this situation, going so far as to describe it as “a breath of fresh air”.

It contrasts with that of other Latin American countries such as Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Ecuador, still facing a strong wave of contamination.

In Brazil, where the Russian vaccine Sputnik V has not received approval from the health agency, a parliamentary commission of inquiry into the management of the coronavirus crisis by the Bolsonaro government began its work on Tuesday.

It carries risks for the president vying for re-election next year, who has only four relatives among the 11 members of the commission. Described as “genocidal” by his most virulent opponents, such as the former left-wing president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, candidate not yet declared but already given winner in the second round of the 2022 poll by an opinion poll, Jair Bolsonaro minimized the pandemic in all its aspects.

The milestone of one billion doses of Covid vaccines, administered in 207 countries or territories, was crossed this weekend, according to an AFP count.

The virus has killed at least 3,122,150 people around the world since the WHO office in China reported its appearance at the end of December 2019, according to a report drawn up by AFP on Tuesday from official sources.

burx-ybl / cn

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