The Covid-19 variant first discovered in India last year is of "global concern", warns the World Health Organization (WHO).
Preliminary studies have shown the B.1.617 mutation spreads more easily than other variants and further investigation is needed into the mutation of the virus. The WHO has also revealed the variant has spread to more than 30 countries already.
"We are classifying this as a variant of concern at a global level. There is some available information to suggest increased transmissibility," Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead on Covid-19, said on Monday.
"We need much more information about this virus variant in this lineage, so we need more targeted sequencing to be done, and to be shared in India and elsewhere so that we know how much of this virus is circulating."
A mutation goes from being a 'variant of interest' to a 'variant of concern' when there is proof of at least one of the following criteria - severe illness, easy transmission, reduced effectiveness of treatment and vaccines, or reduced neutralisation by antibodies.
Research is currently underway to determine if this variant is responsible for the surge in deaths across India, with hospitals currently overwhelmed with patients.
"So far, from information that we have, the public health and social measures work, but we need to work that much harder to control any virus variants that have demonstrated increased transmissibility," Dr Van Kerkhove added.
On Monday, 366,161 new cases of Covid-19 were reported in India, along with 3,754 deaths. However, experts fear the actual figures could be much greater than reported.
The B.1.617 variant is the fourth to be classified by the WHO as being of global concern following variants from South Africa, the U.K. and Brazil.