The World Health Organization (WHO) has clarified that it has not associated the B.1.617 variant as the 'Indian variant' in its weekly epidemiological report on COVID-19. The health body has urged other organisations, especially the media, to refer to the virus and its variants by their scientific names and not by the names of the countries or regions that they first appeared in.
"WHO does not identify viruses or variants with names of countries they are first reported from. We refer to them by their scientific names and request all to do the same for consistency," the agency's South East Asia office tweeted.
WHO issued the clarification after the Indian government raised concerns over individuals associating B.1.617 variant with the country and calling it the 'Indian variant.'
"Several media reports have covered the news of World Health Organization (WHO) classifying B.1.617 as variant (sic) of global concern. Some of these reports have termed the B.1.617 variant of the coronavirus as an 'Indian variant'," the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said in its statement.
"These media reports are without any basis and unfounded. This is to clarify that WHO has not associated the term ‘Indian Variant’ with the B.1.617 variant of the coronavirus in its 32-page document," the ministry added.
WHO on May 10 reclassified the B.1.617 SARS CoV-2 variant as a ‘variant of concern’ from a 'variant of interest.' The reclassification was done based on detailed genetic analysis, which concluded that the variant was more easily transmissible.
The variant was first found in Maharashtra last October. It has now become the fourth variant to be classified as a 'variant of concern' by the WHO. The other variants of concern include the P.1 variant (first found in travellers from Brazil to Japan), the B.1.351 variant (first detected in South Africa in October 2020) and the B.1.1.7 variant (first found in the UK).
(Edited by : Shoma)
First Published: IST