At least three states in India – Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh – have recorded cases of the Delta plus variant of Covid-19.

The Centre had on June 16 officially acknowledged the emergence of the variant. NITI Aayog (health) member Dr VK Paul had said that the strain was a “variant of interest”, but not yet a “variant of concern”. It is a mutation of the Delta variant.

On Monday, Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope said 21 cases of the Delta plus variant were detected in the state, PTI reported. Nine cases were reported from Ratnagiri district, seven from Jalgaon, two from Mumbai and one each from Palghar, Sindhudurg and Thane, Tope added.

“On Delta plus variant, I want to say, Maharashtra took a decision on genome sequencing and 100 samples were collected from every district since May 15,” the minister told NDTV. “We have collected over 7,500 samples and have found 21 cases.”

Tope added that health authorities were gathering details about the travel history of those detected with the strain and locating their contacts, according to PTI.

Last week, the Maharashtra Health Department had warned that the Delta plus variant could trigger a third wave of infections in the state. Officials had added that the third wave could hit the state as early as the next two to four weeks if people do not follow Covid protocol.

Meanwhile, Kerala recorded three cases of the Delta plus variant on Monday, The Hindu reported. One of the patients was a four-year-old boy from Pathanamthitta district.

In Madhya Pradesh, the Delta plus variant was detected in a woman in Bhopal last week, India Today reported.

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Bhopal Chief Medical Office Prabhakar Tiwari told the news channel that the woman’s sample was among those collected from patients at the city’s Gandhi Medical College and sent for genome sequencing to the National Centre for Disease Control.

“We received the report on Wednesday [June 16], and it revealed that one sample showed infection caused by the Delta Plus variant,” Tiwari said. “The remaining samples showed presence of Delta and other variants of the virus.”

The spread of more transmissible variants and lack of Covid-appropriate behaviour have worried health experts.

On Saturday, All India Institute of Medical Sciences Director Dr Randeep Guleria that with crowds building up after the easing of restrictions across India, the “inevitable” third wave of infections could hit the country in the next six to eight weeks.

India is still recovering from the aftermath of the second wave of Covid-19, which at its peak saw more than 4 lakh daily cases, and thousands of deaths every day. Several states experienced crippling shortages of oxygen, hospital beds, medical supplies and vaccines during the second wave, leading to citizens taking to social media to ask for help.

The country’s daily cases have now begun to decline. On Monday, India reported 53,256 new coronavirus cases and 1,422 deaths. This is India’s lowest daily rise in cases in 88 days, according to reports. The country’s total count of infections since the outbreak of the pandemic in January last year rose to 2,99,35,221. The toll went up to 3,88,135.