The B.1.617 variant challenge

Neighboring India saw a dramatic fall in cases after the first wave until it got hit by a massive second wave led by a new India origin variant called B.1.617.

This variant is the predominant variant in India and is thought to be behind the surge in cases. It has rapidly spread to 44 countries with WHO declaring it a variant of concern.

Why Bhutan should be concerned, is that in all probability this variant has entered Bhutan as suspected by our health experts.

Bhutan should worry because this variant is highly transmissible. Reports from UK say it is even more transmissible than the UK variant B.1.1.7 and some say this could arguably be the world’s most transmissible variant.

Given its high transmissibility this variant has vaccine escape properties meaning that it can infect even vaccinated people though the symptoms will be less severe.

This in some aspects may explain how so many of our cases from the south and now the east are adults and frontliners who have been vaccinated with the first dose which provides some protection.

Another worrying factor about this variant is that again given its high transmissibility and mutations it infects children and the young too, even leading to serious sickness in them.

This may also explain why this time around a fair number of our cases are seeing young children also getting infected.

So from all the indications it is clear that Bhutan has a major variant challenge on its hands and it has to adapt accordingly.

Another important update is that the WHO has finally recognized aerosol and airborne transmission of the virus.

This may explain why so many frontline workers in the quarantine centers turned positive even though they were careful to avoid direct contact and maintain distance.

It is now increasingly becoming clear that the main source of COVID-19 transmission is though the airborne or aerosol route and so after masking up the next big focus should be on good ventilation and avoiding gatherings in enclosed spaces.

Realizing the big danger facing Bhutan His Majesty spent around a month in the south shoring up our defences. We should now also do our part.

“It is hard to be defensive toward a danger which you have never imagined existed.”
 John Christopher

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