The situation in India, where the pandemic has reached unprecedented severity, is “more than heartbreaking,” the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.
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“WHO is doing all it can, providing essential supplies and equipment, including thousands of oxygen concentrators, prefabricated mobile field hospitals and laboratory equipment,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in press conference.
In a few days, the “Indian” variant plunged the country of 1.3 billion inhabitants into chaos, prompting the announcement of emergency aid by several countries. India on Sunday recorded a world record of nearly 350,000 people infected in a single day.
In the capital New Delhi, witnesses describe hospital corridors cluttered with beds and stretchers and families begging in vain to be provided with oxygen or a place for their loved ones. Some die on the doorstep of the hospital.
“WHO has redeployed more than 2,600 personnel to support the response in the field, to provide support for surveillance activities, technical advice and vaccination efforts,” said Dr Tedros.
“Never before has the importance of vaccination been so evident,” he added.
The WHO also indicated in an email to AFP that it was carrying out a rapid analysis of the situation in areas facing an upsurge in cases, making recommendations and supporting the implementation of these measures.
The Indian health system is overwhelmed by a new wave of infections attributed in part to the “Indian” variant, called by its lineage name, B.1.617. It is qualified as a “double mutant” because it is in particular the carrier of two disturbing mutations in the spike protein of the Sars-CoV-2 virus which is at the origin of the COVID-pandemic. 19.
The first, E484Q, is close to that already observed on the South African and Brazilian variants (E484K), suspected of causing a lower efficacy of the vaccination and an increased risk of reinfection. The second, L452R, is also present in a variant spotted in California, and may be able to cause increased transmission. This is the first time that they have been spotted together on a variant with significant diffusion.
“Given its heavy circulation and concerns about its spread and neutralization,” the WHO has classified it as a “variant of interest,” but the organization believes more data is needed to determine if it is ‘is a’ variant of concern ‘.