COVID-19: Delta Plus variant has spread to 12 Indian states
The Delta Plus variant of the coronavirus, feared to be a potential catalyst for the third wave, has spread to 12 states in India. There are currently 51 cases of the new strain in the country, with Maharashtra reporting the highest number at 22. However, the government says its prevalence is still very limited and it is not showing an upward trend as yet.
Tamil Nadu reports 9 cases, MP has 7
After Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu has reported the most number of cases at nine, followed by seven in Madhya Pradesh, three in Kerala, and two each in Punjab and Gujarat. Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana, and Karnataka have one case each, Sujeet Singh, the Director of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), said in a media briefing on Friday.
Cases found from 45,000 samples sequenced so far
"There are nearly 50 cases that are found in 12 districts and this has happened in the last three months. It cannot be said that in any district or state, it is showing an increasing trend," Singh said yesterday, according to Hindustan Times. The 51 Delta Plus cases have been detected from more than 45,000 samples sequenced so far in India.
What is the Delta Plus variant?
The new variant was formed through an additional mutation (K417N) to the Delta variant (B.1.617.2), which drove India's deadly second wave of the pandemic. It was earlier this week categorized as a "Variant of Concern" by the Indian government. A top genome sequencing authority in India said the variant has several dangerous characteristics, including increased transmissibility and stronger binding in receptors of lung cells.
Will vaccines work against this variant?
Experts have flagged concerns the new strain may evade immunity from infection as well as vaccination. Now, the Indian Council of Medical Research has started a study on the efficacy of the currently approved vaccines against this variant. "We are examining samples obtained from different places to assess if they get neutralized by serum of COVID-19 vaccine recipients," Dr. Samiran Panda said.
Maharashtra imposes stricter curbs amid variant concerns
In view of the rising cases of the Delta Plus variant, the Maharashtra government has imposed stricter lockdown norms across the state. It has reduced its five-level reopening plan to three and the first two levels with the maximum relaxations have been removed. However, there would not be any changes for state capital Mumbai as the city already comes under Level-3 of the plan.
Is there a link between this strain and third wave?
Several experts have said there is no evidence yet to show this variant could trigger a third wave of the coronavirus in India. "It's too early to predict the third wave, third wave depends on many other factors," said Dr. Sumit Aggarwal of the ICMR. Health experts say that following COVID-19 protocols and better vaccination coverage could delay the third wave.
India's coronavirus situation
India had faced the world's worst coronavirus outbreak earlier this year, witnessing lakhs of cases and thousands of fatalities daily. Daily cases in India had peaked at 4,14,000 just last month. The situation has since improved. In the past 24 hours, the country reported 48,698 fresh infections and 1,183 deaths. Nearly 18% of the Indian population has been partially vaccinated against the coronavirus.