Global alert over Covid-19 disaster in India
A dangerous local strain?
Its name is B.1617
Worst-case scenario: the variant evades antibodies from vaccines
But is this strain really the cause of the disaster in India?
Other factors causing the outbreak
What does the WHO say?
It's a mutation of interest - not yet of concern - to the WHO
It has been detected outside of India
India, a perfect place for COVID mutations
How can we avoid that new strains appear?
Even when there are mutations, it is good to be vaccinated
Don't exaggerate the risk
Vaccination, vaccination, vaccination
Large regions of the world continue to be exposed
Save all or endanger all
What went wrong in India
The Indian COVID-19 mutation: what are the risks?
(1/17)
Global alert over Covid-19 disaster in India

India is living through critical days. The country's second wave of the pandemic is infecting hundreds of thousands of people and more than 2,000 deaths are being counted every day.

 

The Indian COVID-19 mutation: what are the risks?
(2/17)
A dangerous local strain?

Some believe that a local variant of the coronavirus is behind this tragedy. It may have worrying characteristics. What do experts know so far about the Indian variant of COVID-19?

The Indian COVID-19 mutation: what are the risks?
(3/17)
Its name is B.1617

According to early scientific studies, the new Indian variant would include three mutations in comparison to other strains of the virus. These mutations make the virus much more adept at penetrating a human cell and invading tissues while escaping the person's immune protection.

 

The Indian COVID-19 mutation: what are the risks?
(4/17)
Worst-case scenario: the variant evades antibodies from vaccines

In a worst-case scenario, the Indian variant may even be able to evade the antibodies of those who have been vaccinated or of people who have had the disease in another variant. The antibodies created by these people may not protect them from getting the disease in that worst-case scenario.

The Indian COVID-19 mutation: what are the risks?
(5/17)
But is this strain really the cause of the disaster in India?

Some experts doubt that this new strain of the coronavirus is the (sole) cause of the soaring number of cases in India. Leading scientists say that the variant was already detected many months ago, and it is only now that the spread of COVID-19 has exploded in the nation.

 

The Indian COVID-19 mutation: what are the risks?
(6/17)
Other factors causing the outbreak

These experts say that, instead of a new variant, it is the social conditions of India during the pandemic that have caused the virus to spread the way it did. They point at overconfidence after an initially mild previous wave of the pandemic, in combination with India's sanitary conditions and crowding in urban environments.

The Indian COVID-19 mutation: what are the risks?
(7/17)
What does the WHO say?

Be that as it may, the World Health Organisation has warned of the dangers of the Indian variant, suggesting that it is more contagious and may evade vaccination. The scientific possibility is there, even though there are many doubts.

The Indian COVID-19 mutation: what are the risks?
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It's a mutation of interest - not yet of concern - to the WHO

The WHO has included the Indian variant in the list of mutations 'of interest' (i.e. to be investigated and monitored) but not in the list of 'worrying' variants like those from the UK, Brazil, South Africa and California.

The Indian COVID-19 mutation: what are the risks?
(9/17)
It has been detected outside of India

Until now, the Indian variant has been detected in some 19 countries around the world. However, it's always been isolated cases with no community transmission so far. Obviously, it is essential that the Indian mutation does not spread to countries where vaccination is currently underway and advanced, as it could interfere with mass immunisation.

The Indian COVID-19 mutation: what are the risks?
(10/17)
India, a perfect place for COVID mutations

Ravi Gupta, professor of microbiology at Cambridge University, has told the BBC that "India's overpopulation and density make it a perfect incubator for the emergence of variations of the virus."

The Indian COVID-19 mutation: what are the risks?
(11/17)
How can we avoid that new strains appear?

Mass vaccination is the only way to stop the emergence of new variants. As long as the virus infects people and makes them sick, it can move freely from one organism to another. As it moves around, the virus "learns" to evade the barriers that try to stop it.

The Indian COVID-19 mutation: what are the risks?
(12/17)
Even when there are mutations, it is good to be vaccinated

In any case, even if the variant circumvents the vaccine, it is quite likely that the mutated virus does less damage in the body of a vaccinated person than in someone without any degree of immunisation. Moreover, vaccines can be reprogrammed to attack the new variant.

The Indian COVID-19 mutation: what are the risks?
(13/17)
Don't exaggerate the risk

When learning about the British and Californian variants, there were fears that they would create "hell on earth." It has since been shown that safety measures and vaccines can stop the spread of the coronavirus, despite the new mutations.

The Indian COVID-19 mutation: what are the risks?
(14/17)
Vaccination, vaccination, vaccination

It's best to take a position in the middle, without being panic-inducingly catastrophist nor absurdly confident. Scientists agree that it is less likely that new variants will appear as long as people are vaccinated as quickly and massively as possible.

 

The Indian COVID-19 mutation: what are the risks?
(15/17)
Large regions of the world continue to be exposed

Besides overconfidence, another risk in this global pandemic is the fact that poor areas of the planet remain largely unvaccinated. The longer it takes for all to get vaccinated equally, the higher the risk of dangerous mutations becomes.

The Indian COVID-19 mutation: what are the risks?
(16/17)
Save all or endanger all

In the face of the pandemic, either the whole of humanity is saved or we run the risk of no one being saved. Vaccination must reach all parts of the world.

The Indian COVID-19 mutation: what are the risks?
(17/17)
What went wrong in India

Hospital care for the entire population, international solidarity, and mass vaccination are the tools to prevent the pandemic from getting out of control. In the case of India, experts say, these tools have failed to be applied.

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