Reuters reported yesterday (20 May) that clusters of the B.1.617.2 variant, said to be more transmissible than the UK variant, are growing quickly and could derail Britain’s plan to reopen England’s economy by the summer.
British cases of the B.1.617.2 variant, first found in India, have risen to 3,424 (19 May), up by 2,111 compared to comparable figures last week, Public Health England (PHE) said. The rise in number of B.1.617.2 cases in UK over the last 3 weeks has been phenomenon:
Three experts from SAGE, which provide scientific advice to the UK government, Dr. Stephen Reicher from the University of St Andrews and Dr. Susan Michie and Dr. Christina Pagel from University College London, wrote, “We know that it is spreading fast, that it is becoming established in a number of areas across the country.”
The B.1.617.2, in fact, is a sub-lineage of B.1.617 which was first detected in India last October. It has further been classified into 3 sub-lineages:
The World Health Organization (WHO) said that the B.1.617.1 and B.1.617.2 sub-lineages appear to have higher rates of transmission, including observed rapid increases in prevalence in multiple countries.
In India, WHO noted that while B.1.1.7 (UK variant) and B.1.617.1 variants have begun to wane in recent weeks, a marked increase in the proportion of viruses sequenced as B.1.617.2 has been observed over the same period.
Outside of India, the UK has reported large increase in number of cases of B.1.617.2 and has designated this sub-lineage as a “national variant of concern”. Dr Susan Hopkins, Covid-19 strategic response director at Public Health England (PHE), shared, “We are monitoring all of these variants extremely closely and have taken the decision to classify this as a variant of concern because the indications are that this VOC-21APR-02 (B.1.617.2) is a more transmissible variant.”
Paul Hunter, a professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, told the Guardian newspaper on Mon (17 May) that the B.1.617.2 variant could overtake the UK strain. “There is no evidence that the recent rapid rise in cases of the B.1.617.2 variant shows any signs in slowing,” he said. “This variant will overtake (the UK Kent variant) and become the dominant variant in the U.K. in the next few days, if it hasn’t already done so.”
B.1.617.2 now in Singapore
Meanwhile, according to a statement issued by Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH) on Tue (18 May) in response to Delhi Chief Minister claiming that there is a “Singapore variant” spreading here, MOH said that the variant is actually the B.1.617.2 which originated from India.
“There is no ‘Singapore variant’,” MOH said.
“The strain that is prevalent in many of the COVID-19 cases in recent weeks is the B.1.617.2 variant, which originated in India. Phylogenetic testing has shown this B.1.617.2 variant to be associated with several clusters in Singapore.”
As of today (21 May), there are currently 24 active clusters in Singapore:
- Changi Airport – 100
- TTSH – 46
- Learning Point tutor – 28
- ICA – 11
- AbbVie – 9
- Changi Prison Complex – 8
- MT ALLI Sea Crew – 8
- Jin Tai Tong Food – 8
- Westlite Woodlands Dorm – 7
- NUS – 5
- Pasir Panjang Terminal – 5
- Case 62045 Cluster – 4
- Tuas South – 4
- Wok Hey (White Sands Mall) – 4
- Case 63319 cluster – 4
- Sms Infocomm – 4
- Case 63236 cluster – 4
- Marina Bay Sands Casino dealer – 4
- Case 62049 Cluster – 3
- Grab driver – 3
- Case 63336 cluster – 3
- Case 63292 cluster – 3
- Case 63290 cluster – 3
- Case 63304 cluster – 3