The coronavirus disease 2019 variants of concern (VOC) are spreading in at least 139 countries while the global case count has reached 148,763,564, as of yesterday, the Johns Hopkins University said.
In its weekly report, the World Health Organization said the new Covid-19 cases globally have increased for the ninth consecutive week, with nearly 5.7 million new infections reported in the last week – surpassing previous peaks.
The number of new deaths, on the other hand, rose for the sixth consecutive week, with over 87,000 new fatalities reported.
Based on its data collected from April 18 to 25, the UN body said all regions are reporting decreases in case of incidence apart from the South-East Asia and Western Pacific regions.
South-East Asia reported the highest number of new cases at 2,269,114. But while a number of countries in the region are reporting an increase, WHO said India accounts for the vast majority of new infections from this regional trend and 38 percent of global cases reported in the past week.
The WHO attributed to B.1.617 and the spread of other variants, such as the B.1.1.7 and the B1.351, the spike in the number of infections in India.
The UN body said these variants may be “playing a role” in the surge as the new B.1.617 had been detected across several regions in the Asian nation.
WHO also believes that B.1.617 has a higher growth rate than other circulating variants in the Asian nation, suggesting potential increased transmissibility.
“Other drivers may include challenges around the implementation and adherence to public health and social measures, and social gatherings, including mass gatherings during cultural and religious celebrations, and elections. Further investigation is needed to understand the relative contribution of these factors,” it said.
In the same report, the WHO said a total of 139 countries have recorded cases with the B.1.1.7 variant, 87 countries with B.1.351, and about 54 nations with the P.1 variant, as of April 27.
“As surveillance activities to detect SARS-CoV-2 variants are strengthened at local and national levels, including by strategic genomic sequencing and sharing full genome sequences with publicly available platforms such as GISAID, the number of countries/areas/territories reporting VOCs continues to increase,” the WHO said.
Based on the latest data from the JHU for April 28, India has a total of 17,997,113 confirmed Covid-19 cases.
In a tweet yesterday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said he will call on Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar to discuss a range of topics as he hoped for the Asian nation’s quick recovery.
On Tuesday, the Philippines barred the entry of travelers from India or with travel history to India in the last 14 days to prevent the transmission of a “double mutant” coronavirus strain.
“All travelers coming from India or those with travel history to India within the last 14 days preceding arrival shall be prohibited from entering the Philippines beginning April 29 until May 14, 2021,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press statement.
Passengers already in transit from India and all those who have been there within 14 days immediately preceding arrival to the Philippines who arrive before April 29, shall not be subject to the travel restriction.
However, they will be required to undergo 14-day facility-based quarantine period despite acquiring a negative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction result.
Roque said restrictions to travelers coming from other countries that report the new strain may be imposed by the Office of the President upon the joint recommendation of the Department of Health and the DFA.
He said the Department of Transportation should ensure that airlines are directed to prohibit the boarding of passengers entering the country except if they are part of the repatriation efforts of the national government.
Currently, foreigners, except diplomats and healthcare workers, are still barred from entering the Philippines.
Foreign parents, spouses, and children of Filipinos may enter the country, provided they are traveling with the Filipino principal, and have a valid entry.
Philippine Ambassador in New Delhi, Ramon Bagatsing Jr., in a virtual presser, said the Covid-19 situation in India is “very serious”.*PNA