Only one strain of Covid-19 variant found in India now of concern, says WHO
The WHO said Tuesday that only one strain of the Covid-19 Delta variant first detected in India was now considered "of concern", while two other strains had been downgraded.
The B.1.617 variant of the virus, which has in part been blamed for India's explosive outbreak, has been dubbed a triple mutant variant since it is split into three lineages.
The UN health agency last month declared the entire strain a "variant of concern", or VOC, but on Tuesday, it said only one of the sub-lineages deserved that label.
"It has become evident that greater public health risks are currently associated with B.1.617.2, while lower rates of transmission of other lineages have been observed," the World Health Organization said in its weekly epidemiological update on the pandemic.
The B.1.617.2 variant remains a VOC, along with three other variants of the virus that are seen as more dangerous than the original version because they are more transmissible, deadly or have the potential to get past some vaccine protections.
In line with a decision announced Monday to refer to the variants using Greek letters, in a bid to avoid the possible stigmatisation associated with referring to them with the name of the countries where they were first detected, that variant has now been dubbed Delta.
"We continue to observe significantly increased transmissibility and a growing number of countries reporting outbreaks associated with this variant," the UN agency said.
"Further studies into the impact of this variant remain a high priority for WHO."
In fact, a new hybrid variant announced by Vietnam's health authorities on Saturday appears to be a variation of Delta.
"What we understand is that it is this B.1.617.2 variant with one additional deletion in the location of the spike protein," WHO's technical lead on Covid-19 Maria Van Kerkhove told reporters Tuesday.
"We know that the B.1.617.2, the Delta variant, does have increased transmissibility, which means it can spread easier between people," she added.
The B.1.617.1 sub-lineage has meanwhile been downgraded to a "variant of interest," and dubbed Kappa.
And the B.1.617.3 is now not even considered of interest, WHO said, since "relatively few reports of this variant have been submitted to date."
It has not been attributed a Greek letter.
Chinese vice-premier Liu He had a “constructive” dialogue with US Treasury secretary Janet Yellen on Tuesday with both sides agreeing to strengthen “macro-policy communication” and coordination, according to a statement from China. Liu expressed concern over the additional tariffs that the US had imposed on Chinese goods during the video conversation, the official Chinese statement, released by state news agency Xinhua said. The exchange was “pragmatic and frank”, the Chinese statement said.
The European Parliament on Tuesday ratified landmark laws that will more closely regulate Big Tech and curb illegal content online, as the EU seeks to bring order to the internet "Wild West". "With the legislative package, the European Parliament has ushered in a new era of tech regulation," said a key backer of the laws, German MEP Andreas Schwab.
Oil prices slipped on Tuesday, reversing earlier gains, as concerns of a possible global recession curtailing fuel demand outweighed supply disruption fears, highlighted by an expected production cut in Norway. US West Texas Intermediate crude fell 15 cents, or 0.1%, to $108.28 a barrel, from Friday's close. There was no settlement for WTI on Monday because of the Independence Day public holiday in the United States. Supply concerns still loomed.
Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra on Tuesday spoke out in support of Canada-based filmmaker Leena Manimekali - who is the subject of social media outrage (and FIRs by police in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh) after a poster for her new film 'Kaali' showed the goddess smoking. "You have the freedom to imagine your goddess," Moitra said at a media event. The Trinamool leader was responding to a question about her take on this controversy.
NATO's 30 allies signed an accession protocol for Finland and Sweden on Tuesday to allow them to join the nuclear-armed alliance once allied parliaments ratify the decision, the most significant expansion of the alliance since the mid-1990s. "This is truly an historic moment," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said alongside the foreign ministers of the two countries. "With 32 nations around the table, we will be even stronger."