WHO says virus strain in India a 'variant of concern' as Europe eases curbs
The virus is still surging in many countries and the pandemic has killed close to 3.3 million people worldwide since late 2019, upending normal life and causing global economic chaos
AFP , Monday 10 May 2021

Stranded migrant workers wait to board a special train at a railway station during a lockdown imposed by the state government as a preventive measure against the Covid-19 coronavirus in Chennai on May 10, 2021 AFP
Schools and stores reopened in parts of Europe on Monday, easing out of months of Covid-19 lockdowns, but the devastating outbreak raged on across the sub-continent and health experts declared the virus mutation in India a "variant of concern".
The World Health Organization in Geneva said the B.1.517 variant spreading in India appears to be more contagious and might possibly have some increased resistance to vaccine protections.
"As such, we are classifying this as a variant of concern at the global level," said WHO's Covid-19 lead Maria Van Kerkove.
The virus is still surging in many countries and the pandemic has killed close to 3.3 million people worldwide since late 2019, upending normal life and causing global economic chaos.
But rapid vaccination programmes have allowed a number of wealthy nations to start taking steps towards normality.
Ireland on Monday lifted domestic travel restrictions and began a phased reopening of non-essential retailers, while Greece opened nursery, elementary and middle schools ahead of kicking off the tourist season from May 14.
Tourism might get a shot in the arm from the European Union which said it was "fully on track" to ensure a Covid health pass would be ready in June to boost travel.
Britain, which has the highest Covid-19 death toll in Europe, announced the reopening of indoor seating in pubs and restaurants from next week.
"This unlocking amounts to a very considerable step on the road back to normality," said Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The latest easing of restrictions came as England reported no daily virus deaths for the first time in over a year following a successful vaccination campaign
- Act 'responsibly' -
Spain, which at the weekend lifted a six-month state of emergency and allowed travel between regions, sounded a note of caution after joyful crowds celebrated in the streets mask-less and without observing social distancing.
"The end of the state of emergency does not mean the end of restrictions. Far from it. The virus threat still exists," Justice Minister Juan Carlos Campo wrote in El Pais, urging Spaniards to behave "responsibly."
Cyprus on Monday exited a third partial lockdown with a new coronavirus "safety pass" system to allow people to move freely.
And in Germany, people fully vaccinated against Covid-19 were exempt from many restrictions from Sunday after the government passed new legislation.
Berlin also opened access to the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine to all adults on Monday, lifting a priority system.
But in Norway, an expert government committee recommended the Johnson & Johnson and the AstraZeneca jabs be dropped over the risks of rare but serious side effects.
Meanwhile, German firm BionTech, which developed a vaccine with US pharma giant Pfizer, announced a $200 million joint venture with China's Shanghai Fosum Pharmaceutical to produce up to one billion jabs a year and said it was building its own Southeast Asia manufacturing site in Singapore.
- India variant worries -
India, suffering from one of the worst outbreaks in the world, reported nearly 370,000 fresh infections and more than 3,700 new deaths on Monday.
The devastating wave has overwhelmed India's healthcare system, and experts have said official figures for cases and fatalities are much lower than the actual numbers.
BionTech on Monday sought to ally fears around the mutation in India, saying that "to date, there is no evidence" that the jab needs to be adapted to fight the emerging variants.
The outbreak has spread to some of India's neighbours, including Nepal.
And China plans to set up a "separation line" on the summit of Mount Everest -- which straddles the China-Nepal border -- to avoid infections by climbers from Nepal, where dozens have been taken ill at base camp, state media reported.
- Glimpse of the future? -
The world got a glimpse of post-pandemic life as Tokyo hosted a test event ahead of the Summer Olympic Games.
"It's weird running in a stadium with no fans," US sprinter Justin Gatlin said after winning the men's 100m.
Yet International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach was forced to postpone a visit to Japan, organisers said Monday, after a coronavirus state of emergency was extended less than three months before the Tokyo Games.
The United States remains the worst-hit nation in the world, with the highest number of known fatalities and infections.
But the real death toll may be higher than the official figure of 581,000, with a University of Washington study released last week estimating deaths at more than 900,000.
Search Keywords:
Coronavirus Pandemic-
Short link:
Recommended by
India's COVID-19 cases dip from peak, calls for shutdown mount
Egypt dispatches three planes laden with aid supplies to India
SAfrica picks up first cases of coronavirus variant from India
Long-haul carrier Emirates to ship aid for free into India
As cases grow, India's vaccination campaign falters
23:02 Egyptian citizen sentenced to 30 years in France over 2017 Louvre machete attack
22:56 Algeria moves toward new gov't after parliament elections
22:37 Tunisia rescues 267 migrants stranded at sea
22:07 Russia summons UK envoy to 'protest' warship incident
21:41 Giuliani's law license suspended over false US election claims
21:35 Best quotes of Euro 2020 group stage
21:23 Postponing Palestinian elections hinders efforts to end internal split: Hamas.....
20:54 UN says 4,000 asylum-seekers relocated from Greece
20:04 Microsoft debuts Windows 11, first major update in 6 years
19:47 Iran urges removal of sanctions on Syria
18:24 Timeline of Ethiopia's Tigray conflict
18:23 Esperance lose two key players ahead of Ahly clash
18:19 Slowing down China’s growth 
17:30 Book Review: Tales from the turn of the 20th century
17:17 India's COVID-19 tally rises to 30,082,778 with 54,069 new infections
17:06 UEFA to scrap away goals rule in all European club competitions
17:01 Spain to participate in 52nd Cairo International Book Fair
16:57 Turkey’s Caucasus dreaming
16:55 White House preparing to relocate Afghans who helped US
16:17 US lawmakers advance bills aimed at curbing Big Tech
16:12 England showdown with Germany tops last-16 billing at Euro 2020
15:49 Honduras opens embassy in Jerusalem, 4th country to do so
15:09 Oil and gas: Egypt’s star sector
15:07 Sudan: A promising investment destination
14:29 Tennis: Two-time Olympic tennis champion Murray selected for Tokyo
14:26 'All or nothing' Germany out to prolong England's 55 years of hurt in KO games
14:21 NE Nigeria conflict has caused deaths of 324,000 children: UN
13:58 Turkish, US officials discuss Afghan airport security plans
13:06 Egypt's FA to request rescheduling of CAF Champions League final
12:25 Pandemic fallout to be felt 'for years': UN drug agency
Readers Picks
Most Viewed
1. UPDATED: Flying to Egypt? Here are the newest COVID-19-related guidelines you need to know before taking off
2. At least 64 killed in Ethiopian air strike on Tigray market
3. Egypt's COVID-19 vaccine self-sufficiency, a new step towards national immunity
4. Oil and gas: Egypt’s star sector
5. Proposed legislative amendments to Supreme Constitutional Court's law, new safeguards for the economy?
6. Egypt reports 466 new coronavirus cases; 32 deaths on Wednesday
7. Ever Given may be released next week as final deal is being prepared, says Suez Canal head
8. Egypt keen to support efforts to ensure vaccine rollout across Africa, PM Madbouly tells AU meeting
Ahram online
© 2010 Ahram Online.
Find us on Google+Find us on facebookFind us on twitter
HomeEgyptBusinessOpinionWorldArts & CultureSportsLife & StyleHeritageBooksAnalysisFolkMultimedia