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Delta Plus now a SARS-CoV-2 ‘variant of concern’, 22 cases found in Maharashtra, Kerala, MP

Govt notifies the three states, details measures to be taken to contain spread. Delta Plus variant, believed to be more transmissible, detected in 9 countries so far.

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New Delhi: Delta plus is now a variant of concern in India, the Government of India has told states in a letter detailing the measures that are to be taken against the SARS-CoV-2 variant. So far, 22 cases have been detected in the country, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said Tuesday. Meanwhile, a day after a record 86.16 lakh vaccine doses were administered Monday, the total number of doses administered till 9 pm stood at 52.83 lakh.

A variant of concern is a virus with changed characteristics such as increased transmissibility or virulence, or detrimental to identified safety measures and diagnostics.

In a statement Tuesday, the health ministry said, “Based on the recent findings of INSACOG [Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia], the Union Health Ministry has alerted and advised Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh regarding the Delta Plus variant of COVID19 being found in some districts in these States. Union Health Secretary has communicated to these three states this variant has been found in genome sequenced samples from Ratnagiri and Jalgaon Districts of Maharashtra; Palakkad and Pathanamthitta Districts of Kerala; and Bhopal and Shivpuri Districts of Madhya Pradesh.”

The Delta Plus variant is characterised by the K417N mutation in spike protein. The spike protein helps the virus gain entry into the human cell. The variant is believed to be more transmissible. Besides India, the Delta plus variant has been found in the US, the UK, Portugal, Switzerland, Japan, Poland, Nepal, China and Russia.

“Any variant’s transmissibility and virulence decides whether it is a variant of concern or interest. Delta variant is found in 80 countries around the world, including India and it is a variant of concern,” Bhushan added, noting that the Delta Plus variant has been detected in nine countries.

He also said that both the vaccines currently in use in the national programme are effective against the variant. “Broadly speaking, both the Indian vaccines — Covishield and Covaxin — are effective against Delta variant but to what extent and what is the proportion of antibody titers they produce, that information we would very shortly share.”

Also read: US CDC classifies Covid Delta variant, first identified in India, as ‘variant of concern’

Some time to school reopening

Despite the Centre’s record vaccinations, reopening of schools is still some time away, according to Niti Aayog member (health) Dr V.K. Paul.

“Schools require teachers and children to sit together. It gives the virus an opportunity to spread. We can reopen schools when a large part of the population is protected … The lull right now is because of restrictions. When they are removed cases may spike,” Dr Paul said.

Till late Tuesday night, a little over 52 lakh vaccinations had happened even as Bhushan explained that the Monday high was a result of concerted efforts of Centre and states.

“The states and UTs have demonstrated (on Monday) what they are capable of doing provided enough vaccines are available and the states have adequate advance notice of that availability,” Bhushan said.

(Edited by Manasa Mohan)

Also read: This is what makes India’s Delta variant of coronavirus so worrisome


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