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Lambda Variant now a 'variant of concern' for WHO

Lambda is latest mutation threatening pandemic recovery.

SAN DIEGO — The State of California lifted its COVID-19 restrictions less than a month ago and now news of variants has doctors all across the globe concerned. First, the Delta variant that's been found in California. Now the Lambda variant out of South America has been deemed the variant of interest by the World Health Organization.

Yaneer Bar-Yam is a professor and the President of New England Complex Systems Institute. It’s his job to study and find scientific solutions to real-world problems like COVID-19. 

"The Lambda Variant is the latest in a string of variants that makes it more difficult for us to control the disease. They infect quicker and they burn through your lungs faster," Bar-Yam said. 

He’s concerned about this latest variant.

“This is not a mild disease and we should be doing everything we can to get the cases down. We should know by now that if it's not this variant it's going to be another that's going to really raise the bar in terms of danger to people and the difficulty in stopping it from spreading," he said. 

When Bar-Yam compares the Delta and Lambda variants, he said, “It's [Lambda] becoming a concern that maybe it will even be faster than the Delta as far as spreading."

The Lambda variant is dominant in Peru and cases there are surging. It's been found in 30 other countries including the United Kingdom. There haven't been any cases found in the United States but with international travel being linked to the spread of the Lambda variant, Bar-Yam said it's best that we protect ourselves. 

"What we should be doing is using the vaccines along with the other tried and true methods for stopping transmission. Wearing masks is key and then other precautions are definitely worth taking like not going out unless you have to," he said.

The question most want to know is will just having a vaccine work? Bar-Yam said, "The Lambda variant hasn't been evaluated in a country with enough testing in order to compare. So we don't know." 

Bar-Yam said now is not the time to ease up on COVID restrictions: "The way to stop it is to get out of the pandemic and not just pretend that it's not there."

The Delta variant caused enough alarm in the US that Los Angeles went back to masking up indoors to protect its citizens. Bar-Yam said more should consider doing the same.

WATCH RELATED: San Diego officials keeping close eye on Delta variant as cases spike in Los Angeles (June 2021)