Health experts say India missed early alarm, let deadly coronavirus variant spread

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A veteran public health expert warned top Indian officials in early March that a new variant of the coronavirus was spreading quickly in a rural district in the heart of the country and that the outbreak required urgent attention.

Federal health authorities failed to respond adequately to that warning, Dr Subhash Salunke, who has 30 years of experience in public health in India, Indonesia and the United States, told Reuters.

The variant, now known as B.1.617, triggered a catastrophic wave of coronavirus cases in India and has since spread to more than 40 other countries. In May, the World Health Organization (WHO) termed it a “variant of concern,” citing its high transmissibility.

The variant’s first impact was detected months earlier in the Amravati district of the western state of Maharashtra, where health authorities recorded a rapid increase in coronavirus infections in early February, even as cases fell elsewhere in India.

via Reuters