World Health Organisation (WHO) said only B.1.617.2-- one of the three strains of the B.1.617 COVID-19 variant first found in India is a 'variant of concern (VOC)' and added lower transmission rates have been reported for the other two strains. The B.1.617 variant of coronavirus was first discovered in India and was divided into three strains-- B.1.617.1, B.1.617.2, and B.1.617.3.
The Geneva-based global health watchdog informed in its weekly epidemiological update, "B.1.617.2 remains a VOC and labeled variant Delta- we continue to observe significantly increased transmissibility and a growing number of countries reporting outbreaks associated with this variant. Further studies into the impact of this variant remain a high priority for WHO."
B.1.617.2 variant, known as the Delta variant has been reported in 62 countries as of June 1, the WHO mentioned in its weekly update. A new hybrid variant reported from Vietnam in May appears to be a variation of the Delta variant.
WHO's technical lead on COVID-19 Maria Van Kerkhove said, "What we understand is that it is this B.1.617.2 variant with one additional deletion in the location of the spike protein." Kerkhove further mentioned, "We know that the B.1.617.2, the Delta variant, does not have increased transmissibility, which means it can spread easier between people."
It added B.1.617.1 strain, known as the Kappa variant has been reclassified as a Variant of Interest (VOI) whereas the B.1.617.3 strain has neither been classified as a VOI or VOC. WHO noted in its latest update that while Kappa was showing increased transmissibility in specified locations, "global prevalence appears to be declining. This variant will continue to be monitored and reasoned regularly."
Variants that are no longer classified as VOI or VOC will be monitored continually. Following objection raised by the Union Health Ministry over the repeat usage of the term 'Indian variant' in various media reports, the WHO announced the new naming system for significant COVID-19 variants based on Greek alphabet system (Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Kappa, etc.) making it easy to say and remember.
Edited by Mehak Agarwal; with agency inputs
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