The Centre on Tuesday said that three mutant coronavirus strains first detected in other countries were found in India, and reiterated that appropriate Covid-19 protocol must be followed in light of an upsurge in new infections. The government, however, added that the rise in cases in a few states like Maharashtra and Kerala cannot be attributed to the new variants found in the country.
“There are 187 cases of the variant found in the United Kingdom, six of the South African strain, and one case of the Brazilian variant have been recorded,” NITI Aayog member (Health) VK Paul said during a media briefing on the coronavirus situation in the country. “This is based on the data...systematic from across the country...[engaging] 10 laboratories.”
Paul said the E484 K variant in Maharashtra, and the N440 K variant was reported from Maharashtra, Telangana, and Kerala. “These are the recent detections of these variants,” he said. “Reporting only detection does not lead to any attribution for a phenomenon on the ground....to relate the occurrence of a virus mutation...to change in disease pattern...other epidemiological and clinical information has to be linked to these mutants.”
The NITI Aayog (Health) official asserted that there was no reason to believe the mutants detected in the country were the cause of the upsurge in cases in some districts of Maharashtra and Kerala.
During the same briefing, Indian Council of Medical Research Director-General Balram Bhargava also asserted that the detection of the new variants was not connected to the rise in Covid-19 cases. “As of now this surge cannot be linked to the variants,” he said. “However, the proper use of masks should definitely continue across the country along with coronavirus norms. And we should avoid mass gatherings.”
Three more states – Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Punjab – have been witnessing a surge in cases. In Madhya Pradesh, the Balaghat district administration, which shares the border with Maharashtra, announced night curfew and other restrictions starting from Tuesday. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Tuesday restricted the number of guests at indoor events to 100, and for outdoor functions to 200. He also ordered district authorities to implement night curfew if required.
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Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan highlighted the coronavirus updates in the country. He also said that central teams were sent to the states with a high number of cases. “After the inspection is done by the central teams, we have advised them to debrief the chief and principal secretaries of the states so that the authorities can take appropriate measures to tackle the situation,” Bhushan said.
More than 1.17 crore coronavirus vaccines were administered in India, the health ministry said. “1.04 crore first jabs, and 12.61 lakh second shots were recorded,” Bhushan said. “The active cases continue to be less than 1.50 lakh. If you look at average of deaths taking place daily, it was 92 last week – trend of less than 100 deaths.”
When asked if the ministry had planned anything ahead of the elections to the states of West Bengal, Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, Bhushan said that Standard Operating Procedures on Covid-19 protocols were on the ministry’s websites.
On a question on the infrequent use of Covaxin, the ministry said this was only dependent on the manufacturing capability of the drug companies.
India is using two vaccines, the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine produced by the Serum Institute in Pune, and another developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech whose efficacy is not completely known. The pharmaceutical firm’s Chairperson and Managing Director Krishna Ella has said the interim data on the efficacy of the vaccine will be available in two weeks.
Earlier in the day, India recorded 10,584 new coronavirus cases, taking the overall tally to 1,10,16,434. Seventy-eight more deaths pushed the country’s toll to 1,56,463.
The number of active cases stood at 1,47,306, while the number of recoveries reached 1,07,12,665. As many as 1,17,45,552 health care and frontline workers have been vaccinated against the coronavirus so far. Of these, 6,28,696 were inoculated on Monday.