The World Health Organization has classified the strain of coronavirus currently devastating India as a global “variant of concern.” The variant is thought to be more transmissible, and could be more resistant to vaccines.

First identified in India last year, the B.1.617 strain is believed to be behind the wave of infections and deaths in the country in recent months. More than 400,000 cases were recorded on multiple days last week in India, with deaths hitting a record 1,187 on Friday.

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“We are classifying this as a variant of concern at a global level,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead for Covid-19, told a briefing in Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday.

“There is some available information to suggest increased transmissibility,” Van Kerkhove added.

The Indian variant is the fourth such strain of the novel coronavirus to be designated a “variant of concern.” Mutated strains first discovered in the UK, South Africa, and Brazil have all received this classification, and Van Kerkhoeve said last week that the WHO is currently tracking 10 different variants worldwide, with less-concerning ones classified as “variants of interest.” (RT)