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Covid variants to be renamed as Greek letters

The existing systems for naming and tracking genetic lineages of SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes Covid-19 – will remain in use by scientists and in scientific research….reports Asian Lite News

The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that Covid-19 variants of concern will be known by letters of the Greek alphabet, saying it will help avoid stigmatising countries where they first appear.

A group of experts convened by the health organization recommended the new labelling, which “will be easier and more practical to (be) discussed by non-scientific audiences,” the WHO said on Monday, DPA news agency reported.

The organization said that the existing systems for naming and tracking genetic lineages of SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes Covid-19 – will remain in use by scientists and in scientific research.

So far, the WHO has identified four variants of concern.

The one first detected in Britain will be known as Alpha, the one first found in South Africa will be Beta and the one first identified in Brazil will be Gamma.

The newest of the four, which was first detected in India and designated as a variant of concern on May 11, will be known as Delta.

The labelling announcement came as WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned the coronavirus pandemic is far from over as he closed the group’s annual meeting, moved online this year due to the disease.

ALSO READ: UK warned of third Covid wave

“The reality is, we still have a lot of work to do to end this pandemic,” he said. “We’re very encouraged that cases and deaths are continuing to decline globally, but it would be a monumental error for any country to think the danger has passed.”

He stressed the importance of precautions that have gone into common usage since the pandemic started: social-distancing, hand-washing, wearing facial masks and ensuring a fair distribution of vaccines.

The WHO has criticized the fact that rich countries have purchased vast quantities of hard-to-get vaccines, and are already inoculating young and healthy people, while poorer countries don’t have enough shots even for health care workers and those especially at risk.

“One day – hopefully soon – the pandemic will be behind us,” said Tedros. “But the psychological scars will remain for those who have lost loved ones, health workers who have been stretched beyond breaking point, and the millions of people of all ages confronted with months of loneliness and isolation.”

Attendees at the session also agreed to meet in November to begin work on a pandemic treaty, which aims to make sure the world is better prepared the next time a pandemic spreads. One focus would be ensuring better cooperation in the next health crisis.

ALSO READ: ‘Very few Covid patients in hospitals get 2 doses’

-Top News COVID-19 UK News

UK expert urges caution over B.1.617 variant

The UK’s fight against coronavirus could turn bad “very, very quickly” unless the government acts cautiously on easing lockdown further, said Professor Tim Gowers…reports Asian Lite News

The B.1.617 coronavirus variant could “pick up speed and become a big problem” in the UK as the country further eases its lockdown, an expert has warned.

The UK’s fight against coronavirus could turn bad “very, very quickly” unless the government acts cautiously on easing lockdown further, Xinhua news agency quoted Professor Tim Gowers from the University of Cambridge as saying to the Guardian on Saturday.

“So I think if that’s the way you’re going to play things, then you should be very, very cautious about every step you take… And maybe everything (will) be okay, maybe the number of people who are vaccinated will be just enough.

“But if it’s not OK, we know, because of mathematics, that things will get bad very, very quickly.

“Or at least, maybe it won’t look that quick to start with, but it’ll grow exponentially. So it’ll pick up speed and become a big problem,” he said.

Meanwhile, Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chair of the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), also warned that the variant is “clearly more transmissible”.

“We need to be reassured that we’re in a very different position now in that we’ve got a highly vaccinated population and we just need to continue moving at speed,” he told the BBC on Saturday.


“We do know that with this particular variant you do need two doses to offer complete protection, and so we’re very, very keen to make sure that all those, particularly higher risk groups, that’s the over-50s and those with underlying illness, receive their second vaccination as soon as feasible.”

Meanwhile, the B.1.617 variant cases doubled in a week in England to almost 7,000, prompting concerns that the government’s lockdown roadmap will be derailed.

The roadmap is expected to see all legal limits on social contact to be removed on June 21.

It is understood that a final decision on the planed easing of lockdown will not be made until June 14.

More than 38.8 million people, or more than 70 per cent of adults in Britain, have been given the first jab of the coronavirus vaccine, according to the latest official figures.

The UK’s overall Covid-19 caseload and death toll currently stood at 4,496,823 and 128,037, respectively.

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-Top News Asia News Nepal

Nepal confirms new Covid-19 variant

Nepal’s health authorities confirmed that three variants of the virus have been detected so far…reports Asian Lite News

After confirming two variants of coronavirus, Nepal on Tuesday confirmed that there were cases of third variant B.1.617.2 in the country.

Nepal’s Ministry of Health and Population said three variants of the virus have been detected.

“B.1.617.2 is the new variant seen in India while B.1.617.1 is the one seen in the UK. Earlier last year, Nepal reported the variant arising from China. With this, three variants of virus have been detected,” Dr. Sameer Kumar Adhikari, Assistant Spokesperson for ministry stated in release.

“According to result of gene sequencing of samples collected from the patients of 35 districts across the country, B.1.617.2 variant was detected in 97 per cent samples while the B.1.617.1 variant was reported from other three per cent samples,” Adhikari added.

The sequencing was carried out at CSIR Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology in India, a WHO-recognized center of excellence in genomic sequencing, the release stated.

A health worker is seen at an isolation ward of a hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal,

The ministry also urged people to strictly abide by the public health protocols as the new variant is more infectious than the older ones and even deadlier for the people of all age groups.

Nepal on Tuesday recorded as many as 8,203 new cases of COVID-19 along with 6,891 recoveries and 196 deaths.

A total of 20,979 samples were tested till Tuesday afternoon and 8,203 tested positive for COVID-19.

Nepal’s total count of COVID-19 cases stands at 372,354 including 352,414 recoveries and 5,411 deaths.

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There are 107,082 COVID-19 patients in home isolation, 7,447 in institutional isolations, 1,590 in ICUs and 390 on ventilators as of Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Nepal received a second shipment of China-donated oxygen cylinders as the Himalayan country is continuing to face an acute shortage of medical oxygen supply for a growing number of Covid-19 patients.

A Nepal Airlines plane landed at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu at 2.30 p.m. on Sunday with the oxygen cylinders and concentrators from China, Dim Prasad Poudel, managing director of the airline, told Xinhua news agency.

The first batch had arrived on May 10.


According to Nepal’s Ministry of Finance, there is an agreement with China for the delivery of oxygen cylinders on a grant basis, and some of them will be brought by air while the rest will be sent through the land route with Tibet.

Poudel said the Nepal Airlines will send planes to get back the remaining oxygen cylinders from China.

“We are trying to communicate with the Chinese side to know when the cylinders would arrive at the border point,” said Narad Gautam from the bordering Tatopani Customs Office in the Sindhupalchowk district.

Jageshwor Gautam, spokesperson at the Nepali Health Ministry, told Xinhua last week that China-donated oxygen cylinders would be distributed to large government-run hospitals in the Kathmandu Valley, and a few would be sent to the crisis-hit provinces. (ANI/IANS)

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-Top News COVID-19 UK News

Covid variant cases up in UK

According to Hancock, in Bolton and Blackburn with Darwen, cases of the variant have doubled since last week…reports Asian Lite News

A total of 2,323 cases of the coronavirus variant first detected in India have been recorded in the UK, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.

Speaking on Monday at the House of Commons, the lower house of British Parliament, Hancock said the variant is now the dominant strain of the virus in Bolton and Blackburn with Darwen, both in northwest England, with 483 confirmed cases, reports Xinhua news agency.

According to Hancock, in Bolton and Blackburn with Darwen, cases of the variant have doubled since last week.

“In Blackburn, hospitalisations are stable with eight people currently in hospital with Covid, and in Bolton 19 people are now in hospital with coronavirus, the majority of whom are eligible for a vaccine but haven’t yet had a vaccine,” he said.


“This shows the new variant is not tending to penetrate into older, vaccinated groups and it underlines again the importance of getting the jab especially, but not only amongst the vulnerable age groups.”

Hancock has said there is a “high degree of confidence” that the current Covid vaccines will be effective against the India-related variant, but the virus could “spread like wildfire” among those who have not had a jab.

ALSO READ: UK lockdown easing at risk over variant threat

“While we also don’t have the complete picture on the impact of the vaccine, the early laboratory data from Oxford University corroborates the evidence from Bolton Hospital and the initial observational data from India that vaccines are effective against this variant,” he said.

Hancock’s remarks came as the lockdown further eased on Monday across the UK despite concerns over risks posed by coronavirus variants, especially the Indian one.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock holds a COVID-19 press conference alongside Prof Jonathan Van-Tam, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England and Dr Nikki Kanani, Medical Director of Primary Care for NHS England in the Briefing Room in 9 Downing Street. Picture by Tim Hammond/ No 10 Downing Street

From Monday, pubs, bars and restaurants in England were permitted to open indoors, while indoor entertainment resumed, including cinemas, museums and children’s play areas.

Millions in England were allowed to meet outdoors in groups of up to 30 people, and meet indoors in groups of up to six or as two households.

More than 36.7 million people in Britain have been given the first jab of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the latest official figures.

The country’s overall caseload and death toll stood at 4,468,570 and 127,946.

ALSO READ: UK defends the timing of putting India on ‘red list’

-Top News COVID-19 India News

Presence of double mutant variant confirmed in Chandigarh

The presence of the double mutant B.1.617 variant having the signature mutations L452R and E484Q has been confirmed in 22 per cent (5/23) of the samples after sequencing…reports Asian Lite News

Reports of sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 from 23 nasopharyngeal swab samples of Covid-19 patients sent from PGIMER in Chandigarh were received on Thursday from NCDC in New Delhi, the hospital said on Sunday.

The presence of the double mutant B.1.617 variant having the signature mutations L452R and E484Q has been confirmed in 22 per cent (5/23) of the samples after sequencing, said Jagat Ram, Director PGIMER.

He further stated that the B.1.617 variant first identified in India last year has been found in more than 40 countries and has recently been classified as a “variant of concern” (VOC) by World Health Organisation (WHO).

It has been found by researchers that the mutations in the double-mutant strain render it to be more transmissible and vaccine -induced antibodies are somewhat less potent in neutralizing this variant.

“The surge of cases during the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic has somewhat been attributed to the B.1.617 variant strain”, added Ram.

Giving further details on the findings, the Director said in a statement, “Of the other samples, the UK variant B.1.1.7 which is also a VOC and associated with higher transmissibility was found in 39 per cent (9/23) samples.

“The UK variant B.1.1.7 carries the signature mutations N501Y, P681H, 69/70 D f the SARS-CoV-2 virus.”

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Meanwhile, Covid numbers brought a heave of relief as the daily figures dropped below the 3-lakh mark for the first time in nearly a month.

In the last 24 hours, 2,81,386 new corona cases were reported — lowest in 25 days, and 4,106 fatalities, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said.

Kerala covid toll rises

On May 12, India recorded 4,205 fresh Covid deaths, the highest ever, while on May 7, the country had recorded its highest ever cases of 4,14,188.

India’s total tally of Covid-19 cases now stands at 2,49,65,463 with 35,16,997 active cases and 2,74,390 deaths so far.

According to the Health Ministry, a total of 3,78,741 people have been discharged in the last 24 hours, with 2,11,74,076 being cured from Covid till date.

The Health Ministry said that a total of 18,29,26,460 people have been vaccinated so far in the country, including 6,91,211 who were administered vaccines in the last 24 hours.

According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), 31,64,23,658

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6 Covid-19 variants detected in Lanka amid surge

A letter signed by the Department’s Professor Neelika Malavige and Director Chandima Jeewandara on Sunday, said the six variants were found in samples from patients sent to them as of April 30….reports Asian Lite News

 Sri Lankan health experts have said a total of six Covid-19 variants have been identified in the island nation amid an ongoing resurgence of new cases.

The coronavirus variants, including the more contagious B.1.617 first reported in India, were identified by the Department of Immunology and Molecular Medicine of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, reports Xinhua news agency.

A letter signed by the Department’s Professor Neelika Malavige and Director Chandima Jeewandara on Sunday, said the six variants were found in samples from patients sent to them as of April 30.

The health experts said the variant of B.1.617 was detected in a person who recently returned from India and was in a quarantine centre in Colombo.

Jeewandara was quoted by the Sunday Morning newspaper as saying that his Department has also detected 65 cases with the virus variant B.1.1.7 first found in Britain as well as one infection with the B.1.351 strain that originated in South Africa.

Sri Lanka has so far reported 125,906 confirmed cases of Covid-19 with 801 deaths.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry has started administering the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine against Covid-19 to citizens, soon after the World Health Organisation (WHO) approved it for emergency use worldwide.

The vaccines were administered on Saturday at the Panadura Health Office in Kalutara District, in the outskirts of capital Colombo, an area which has reported a rising number of Covid-19 cases in recent days.

ALSO READ;Sri Lanka bans travellers from India

Speaking at the launch of the vaccination drive, State Minister of Production, Supply, and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals Channa Jayasumana thanked the Chinese government for sending the Sinopharm vaccines and said this would add to the efforts of the Sri Lankan government to inoculate at least 70 per cent of its population against the virus by the end of the year.

“Today is a very special day for the Panadura MoH office. We want to thank the Chinese government as well as the WHO for approving the Sinopharm under emergency use. Today we began administering the Sinopharm in the Panadura area and want to thank President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for approving to start this program from the Kalutara district,” Jayasumana said.

Sri lanka vaccination

State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and Covid Disease Control Sudharshani Fernandopulle, also said at the launch that with the WHO and the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) approving the Sinopharm vaccine under emergency use in Sri Lanka, authorities will now look to get more vaccines from China to vaccinate the local population.

“Today we began administering the Sinopharm vaccine in the Panadura Health office for locals above the age of 30 years and below the age of 60 years. From tomorrow (Sunday) we will also identify the areas which have reported the highest number of Covid-19 patients in recent days and will begin to administer the Sinopharm vaccines in those areas as well,” Fernandopulle said.

She said some of the areas worst affected by the virus were Colombo, Kalutara, Gampaha, Kurunegala, Kandy, and Matale, and authorities were making arrangements to vaccinate the people in these areas as soon as possible.

The Sinopharm vaccines arrived in Sri Lanka last month, under a special grant by the Chinese government to the Health Ministry.

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-Top News COVID-19 USA

First case of Indian coronavirus variant found in US

The Indian variant was found in a patient from the San Francisco Bay Area by Stanford’s Clinical Virology Laboratory, reports Asian Lite News.

One case of a new Covid-19 variant first detected in India has now been found in the United States. Spotted first by researchers at Stanford University, the variant was found in Northern California.

The variant in question has two mutations — one similar to the variation found in the strain from California which was spotted in the spiky protein which the virus attaches itself to.

The Indian variant was found in a patient from the San Francisco Bay Area by Stanford’s Clinical Virology Laboratory, as reported by NBC, citing a spokesperson from Stanford. This marks the first case of the variant in the United States.

It has hit the US amid growing concerns about an impending surge fuelled by new and emerging variations and complacency engendered by high rates of vaccination – more than 3 million a day recently, with a record of 4 million last Saturday – being reported from around the country.

 “This Indian variant contains two mutations in the same virus for the first time, previously seen on separate variants,” Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious diseases expert at University of California San Francisco, told San Francisco Chronicle.

The variant was first detected last month by Indian health officials. India had witnessed a slowdown of the spread of Covid-19 in the last few months of 2020. But in March 2021, cases continued to rise across the country, nearing 100,000 daily infections in April.

Cases in California are currently declining after witnessing a surge in the winter months due to which cases increased in November running into the new year.

This relief in terms of numbers has prompted California authorities to begin reopening parts of the state, starting with its most populous county in Los Angeles.

Even then, California is the hardest-hit state in the US, recording more than 3.5 million known infections and 58,000 deaths, as per data from California’s health department.

The new variant is said to be responsible for the surge in new daily cases seen since over the past few weeks. From around 9,100 on February 15, the number of new infections shot up in a matters of weeks to103,000 on April 4, according to the US-based Johns Hopkins University’s Covid-19 tracker.

A response was awaited from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to a request for confirmation of reports about the new variant from India and for details about the nature of the threat posed by it, and whether it was resistant to the three vaccines being administered in the US now – Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.

The CDC has been tracking new and emerging mutations of the coronavirus and it currently has five of them on its radar, according to an April 2 post on its website.

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Covid mutant cases in US at 6,000

Majority of these cases were caused by the variant known as B.1.1.7, which was originally detected in Britain…reports Asian Lite News

Over 6,000 infection cases of coronavirus variants have been reported in the United States, according to the latest data of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The vast majority of these cases, 6,390, were caused by the variant known as B.1.1.7, which was originally detected in Britain, Xinhua news agency reported.

There were 194 cases of a new strain initially discovered in South Africa, called B.1.351, and 54 cases of the P.1 strain first discovered in Brazil.

In addition, the B.1.427 and B.1.429 variants, two coronavirus strains first detected in California, are also being closely monitored by the CDC.

children walking in street during covid 19 surge in us

The five coronavirus strains are currently classified by the CDC as “variants of concern,” as evidence shows an increase in their transmissibility, increased hospitalizations or deaths, significant reduction in neutralization by antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination, reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines, or diagnostic detection failures.

The CDC and its partners are increasing the numbers of specimens sequenced in laboratories around the country, according to the agency.

People wearing face masks visit the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in Washington, D.C during covid 19 surge

Viruses constantly change through mutation. Currently, multiple variants of SARS-CoV-2 have been documented in the United States and globally.

Public health officials said protective measures like mask use, physical distancing, hand hygiene and prompt vaccination can help prevent against Covid-19 infections and emerging strains.

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