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Covid: 40 Delta plus cases found in Maharashtra, Kerala & MP, Centre calls for containment

The Times of India logo The Times of India 24-06-2021 Sushmi Dey
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NEW DELHI: Around 40 cases of the Delta plus variant — now classified as a ‘variant of concern’ — have been detected from Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh, raising concerns about the threat it poses even as its properties, including transmissibility and virulence, are being investigated.

“As of now, among the samples sequenced (45,000+) in India, Delta plus variant AY.1 has been observed sporadically in Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh, with around 40 cases identified so far and no significant increase in prevalence,” the health ministry said on Wednesday.

However, it is likely that cases infected with the Delta plus variant are not confined to these three states, official sources said amid reports of some being detected in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh as well. The Centre on Tuesday issued an advisory to Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh to immediately step up containment measures to curb the spread.

These states have also been asked to send more positive samples for genome sequencing. The Delta plus variant [B.1.617.2.1/(AY.1)] is characterised by the K417N mutation in Spike protein — which aids the virus to gain receptor-mediated entry into human cells, according to an INSACOG report.

The mutation K417N has been of interest as it is present in the Beta variant (B.1.351 lineage), which was reported to have immune evasion property. The role of AY.1 in immune escape, disease severity or increased transmissibility is under continued surveillance, the ministry said.

Officials said even if the variant has higher transmissibility, the measures to fight it remain the same, stressing on the need to wear masks, follow hand hygiene and maintain physical distancing, including avoiding crowded places.

Though the confirmed number of cases infected by Delta plus variant is still low in India, officials and public health experts are concerned because it is likely to have high transmissibility as it is a variant of Delta (B.1.617.2) — which was identified as the most transmissible variant of SARS-CoV2 so far.

Apart from India, cases of Delta plus variant have been detected in nine other countries — US, UK, Portugal, Poland, Nepal, Switzerland, Japan, China and Russia.

The new variant is emerging in India at a time when most states are ending severe lockdowns and lifting restrictions as Covid-19 cases are declining. Average daily new cases of Covid-19 dropped to 58,140 during June 16-22, following a consistent decline since the week of May 5-11 when an average of 3.8 lakh cases were confirmed every day.

On Tuesday, 50,848 new cases were recorded from across the country. Around 135 districts, mostly in southern states and some in Maharashtra, are still reporting more than 100 cases daily.

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