The coronavirus variant first detected in India has now been officially recorded in 53 territories, a World Health Organisation report showed Wednesday.
Additionally, the WHO has received information from unofficial sources that the B.1.617 variant has been found in seven other territories, figures in the UN health agency’s weekly epidemiological update showed, taking the total to 60.
The report said B.1.617 had shown increased transmissibility, while disease severity and risk of infection were under investigation.
Globally over the past week, the number of new cases and deaths continued to decrease, with around 4.1 million new cases and 84,000 new deaths reported — a 14 per cent and two per cent decrease respectively compared to the previous week.
The WHO’s European region reported the largest decline in new cases and deaths in the past seven days, followed by the southeast Asia region.
The numbers of cases reported by the Americas, Eastern Mediterranean, Africa, and the Western Pacific region were similar to those reported in the previous week.
‘Despite a declining global trend over the past four weeks, incidence of Covid-19 cases and deaths remain high, and substantial increases have been observed in many countries throughout the world,’ the document said.
The highest numbers of new cases in the past seven days were reported from India 18,46,055 — down 23 per cent, Brazil 4,51,424 — up three per cent, Argentina 2,13,046 — up 41 per cent, the United States 1,88,410 — down 20 per cent, and Colombia 1,07,590 — down seven per cent.
The update gave information on the four mutations classed as variants of concern: those first reported in Britain, B.1.1.7, South Africa, B.1.351, Brazil, P.1 and India, B.1.617.
When counting up the total number of territories reporting each variant, the WHO added together those from which it had official and unofficial information.
B.1.1.7 has now been reported in 149 territories, B1.351 in 102 territories and P.1 in 59 territories.
The WHO split up figures for the B.1.617 variant into three lineages B.1.617.1, B.1.617.2 and B.1.617.3.
The first has been reported in a total of 41 territories, the second in 54 and the third in six: Britain, Canada, Germany, India, Russia and the United States.
Together, lineages of the B.1.617 variant were officially recorded in 53 territories and unofficially in another seven.
The update also listed six variants of interest that are being monitored.
One was first discovered in multiple countries, two of them were first found in the United States, while the three others were first discovered in Brazil, the Philippines and France.
‘Virus evolution is expected, and the more SARS-CoV-2 circulates, the more opportunities it has to evolve,’ the report said.
‘Reducing transmission through established and proven disease-control methods... are crucial aspects of the global strategy to reduce the occurrence of mutations that have negative public health implications.’
Meanwhile, the coronavirus has killed at least 34,87,457 people since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1000 GMT on Wednesday.
At least 16,77,54,610 cases of coronavirus have been registered.
The World Health Organisation estimates that the pandemic’s overall toll could be two to three times higher than official records, due to the excess mortality that is directly and indirectly linked to Covid-19.
On Tuesday, 11,663 new deaths and 5,46,169 new cases were recorded worldwide.
Based on the latest reports, the countries with the most new deaths were India with 4,157, followed by Brazil with 2,173 and Colombia with 644.
The United States is the worst-affected country with 5,90,941 deaths from 3,31,66,511 cases.
After the US, the hardest-hit countries are Brazil with 4,52,031 deaths from 1,61,94,209 cases, India with 3,11,388 deaths from 2,71,57,795 cases, Mexico with 2,21,960 deaths from 23,99,790 cases, and the United Kingdom with 1,27,739 deaths from 44,67,310 cases.
The country with the highest number of deaths compared to its population is Hungary with 306 fatalities per 1,00,000 inhabitants, followed by the Czech Republic with 281, Bosnia-Herzegovina with 279, the Republic of North Macedonia 256 and Bulgaria 252.
Europe overall has 11,26,789 deaths from 5,25,79,556 cases, Latin America and the Caribbean 10,15,601 deaths from 3,21,50,596 infections, and the United States and Canada 6,16,243 deaths from 3,45,30,266 cases.
Asia has reported 4,57,739 deaths from 3,51,90,406 cases, the Middle East 1,41,069 deaths from 84,76,600 cases, Africa 1,28,920 deaths from 47,79,337 cases, and Oceania 1,096 deaths from 47,857 cases.
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