Covid: Nottingham surge testing after Indian variant rise

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The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has confirmed two cases in Gauteng and two in KwaZulu-Natal of the B.1.617.2 Covid-19 variant which is circulating in India.

"Another variant that is now dominating Covid-19 infections in Europe and North America, B.1.1.7 has also been detected in South Africa".

The B.1.617 variant has devastated India's healthcare system, leading to oxygen shortages.

Experts are confident but cautious that vaccination and public health measures, including social distancing and mask-wearing, will help to keep the United Kingdom on top of the coronavirus variant first detected in India.

According to a report on whole-genome sequencing, carried out recently in a private laboratory in Kathmandu, the B.1.617.2 was found in 75 percent of swab samples of the infected people.

The WHO deemed B.1.617 "a variant of concern" on Monday.

Health Minister Zahid Maleque has said the Covid-19 situation in the country could become similar to India and Nepal after Eid if people continue moving recklessly.

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While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now lists the Indian variant and its sublineages as a "variant of interest", United Kingdom health officials have already moved to classify the Indian virus variant as a "variant of concern" in the country following an uptick in cases and "evidence of community transmission".

Prof Sharon Peacock, the director of Cog-UK - the group in charge of monitoring variants - said the UK was in a far better position to fight the mutated virus because of its vaccination programme and current low level of Covid.

"There is now insufficient evidence to indicate that any of the variants recently detected in India cause more severe disease or render the vaccines now deployed any less effective", PHE wrote in a statement posted Friday.

The call came just two days after Bangladesh identified at least six cases of the highly contagious Indian variant.

The experts, however, said the new variants detected in South Africa were not driving the surge.

The UK has begun to drastically roll back restrictions on the back of a successful vaccine rollout and while the World Health Organization clarified its remarks to say existing vaccines "should prevent disease and death in people infected with this variant", Dr Van Kerkhove reminded those who are inoculated can still transmit the virus.

Scientists warn that if the virus is allowed to spread unchecked in parts of the world with lower vaccine coverage, risky variants will continue to evolve, threatening all countries. "If we look at the new variants across the world, they tend to have high transmissibility".

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