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New Covid B.1.1.529 variant appears to be more transmissible: Dr Shashank Joshi

Concerns about COVID-19 are on the rise around the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported a new COVID variant – B.1.1.529 – indicating a large number of mutations in the new variant, which will require further study. The new variant has also triggered an alert in India, with the government calling for rigorous screening and testing of international travelers to and transit through South Africa and Hong Kong. In an interview with CNBC-TV18, Dr Shashank Joshi, a member of the Maharashtra COVID task force, explained what the implications might be for India.

“The B.1.1.529 variant is a very rapidly transmissible strain,” he said.

“This variant has a special group of mutations near the cleavage site called furin, which makes the virus more transmissible,” he added.

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It’s a great mutation. It has over 30 mutations and these mutations are found at multiple sites and are basically susceptible to resistance to various antibodies, he noted.

So far, 77 cases in South Africa, 4 in Botswana and 2 in Hong Kong have been reported.

WHO is convening a TAG-VE meeting to better understand the schedule of ongoing studies and to determine whether this variant should be designated as variant of interest or variant of concern.

“This variant is likely to be named today at the WHO meeting – either as an interesting variant or as a variant of concern because of its rapid transmissibility,” he added.

Overall the dominant variant is still Delta and in India there is the Delta derivative which is decreasing. In Japan, Delta went extinct and self-destruct.

“Whether you are single vaccinated or double vaccinated, whether you have had COVID or not, you have to follow two things – one is the double mask or the single mask every time you go out. If you have a cloth mask, this is not enough as it is an airborne droplet virus, have at least a three-layer surgical mask, or wear an N-95 mask. Second, it is an airborne droplet virus, so make sure you are in a ventilated environment. We must continue to behave appropriately to COVID; it is very present. There is an active virus circulating even in India, ”he advised.

With the pollution that sets in, the smog that sets in, the cold winter that sets in, we must not be complacent at all, he noted.

“Get vaccinated, wear a mask regardless of your vaccination status and be careful and careful. Don’t be complacent,” he said.

The strongest viral strain is a “variant of concern” and the weaker strain is an “interesting variant”.

“Currently, it is not categorized into either because we don’t know the clinical implications, severity or outcome of mortality. Thus, once these data are available in the public domain, only then can the WHO classify them as a variant of interest or concern. But from a virological point of view, this seems to be an interesting variant, at least if not of concern, ”explained Dr Joshi.

Data from India and availability are the two factors that will determine guidance on the recall, which is expected to arrive very soon.

“People who are moderately to severely immunocompromised, healthcare workers, front-line workers, the elderly as well as the general population – after six months if they have had two vaccines but no COVID – are susceptible to ” be eligible for a recall in the coming times. If you had COVID and took two hits, COVID itself becomes like a natural booster, ”he said.

For the full interview, watch the accompanying video.

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(Edited by : Dipikka Ghosh)

First publication: STI


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