Devotees gather to offer prayers during the third 'Shahi Snan' of the Kumbh Mela 2021, in Haridwar, 14 April 2021 | PTI
Devotees gather to offer prayers during the third 'Shahi Snan' of the Kumbh Mela 2021, in Haridwar on 14 April 2021 | PTI
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New Delhi: The double mutant strain of SARS-CoV-2, believed to have greater transmissibility, was circulating in Uttarakhand before the Maha Kumbh Mela began in Haridwar on 1 April, ThePrint has learnt.

On Monday, the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) returned samples from the state, detecting a total of six cases of various strains, according to doctors in Dehradun’s Viral Research and Diagnostic Laboratory (VRDL). The VRDL is funded by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to investigate and keep a track on viral outbreaks.

Three of the six are of the double mutant strain (B.1.6.1.7), two are of the UK strain (B.1.1.7), and one is of an unknown “variant under investigation (VUI)”, the doctors said.

The samples had been sent to the NCDC at the end of March — days before the beginning of the Kumbh Mela, which was attended by millions of people.  

The particular mutations on the spike protein of the double mutant strain — called E484Q and L452R — “confer immune escape and increased infectivity”, the Ministry of Health had said in a statement earlier.

“The detection of double mutant variant and UK variant in Uttarakhand is worrying as these variants are highly transmissible, 50-70 per cent more in comparison to wild type (original) strain of SARS-COV-2,” said Dr Shekhar Pal, principal investigator of VRDL in Doon Medical College, Dehradun.

“There will be several implications, since the strain was already circulating when the Kumbh Mela began,” said Dr Deepal Juyal, co-investigator at the VRDL, told ThePrint. “Not only is it highly infectious, it is also an immune escape variant.” 

Uttarakhand has seen an over seven-fold rise in cases since the Kumbh Mela began. On 31 March, the state had registered 293 cases, which went up to 2,160 as on 19 April.


Also read: 55% patients in India needed clout or connections to get Covid ICU beds, survey finds


Not a variant of concern: Govt

The double mutant strain was first detected by the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG) on 24 March.

On 10 April, the National Institute of Virology found that 61 per cent of the samples it had received belonged to the double mutant strain.

The government, however, has maintained that the double mutant strain is not a “variant of concern” (VOC), and that it is still a variant of interest that is under investigation. In a statement on 17 April, the health ministry said “higher transmissibility of this (double mutant) variant is not established as yet”. But several experts have disagreed

 The VOCs recognised by the government include the UK, South Africa, and Brazil variants. 

“There are particular properties that define VOCs, such as increased transmissibility, capability of escaping the immune response, decreased sensitivity to neutralising antibody therapies and antiviral drugs, and increased risk of long-haul Covid, to name a few,” said Juyal.


Also read: India’s Covid numbers are alarming, and there is a lesson in them for the world


 

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3 COMMENTS

  1. There seems to be some confusing information provided in this write up. The first shahi snan in the Kumbh mela was on 11 Mar. The kumbh mela was well underway by end of March when mutant Covid strains were found in Haridwar.

  2. Why is media reacting with such news post-event? They could have been more proactive and reported before start of the event. Its very easy to do post-event analysis and blame the authorities. When Kumbh arrangements started in November 2020 there was no threat of second wave in India. Secondly the a bigger threat is looming over the capital that is of so called rich farmers and middlemen sitting in protest, what about them?

  3. Why is there an old photo of kumbh when mentioning new strains of wuhan virus.

    You don’t have the audacity to call it wuhan virus but implicitly make it about as due to kumbh.

    There was no hue and cry during farmer protests or republic day rampage but all of a sudden I see flash of kumbh pictures on theprint and other news media intentionally maligning kumbh.

    This paappe journalism must be stopped where reams are written and filled with fear stories and mongering instead of uplifting ones or if resilience.

Comments are closed.