India has detected 48 cases of the Delta plus variant of Covid-19, the Union health ministry said on Friday.
National Centre for Disease Control Director Dr SK Singh said at the media briefing on India’s Covid-19 situation that 10 states and one Union Territory have reported the variant. The maximum number of cases were reported were in Maharashtra (20), followed by Tamil Nadu (nine), Madhya Pradesh (seven), Kerala (three), two each in Punjab and Gujarat and one each from Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir and Karnataka.
Singh said that the Covid-19 cases were detected in 45,000 samples that were sequenced by the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia, or INSACOG, which conducts genome sequencing of Covid-19 infections.
Indian Council of Medical Research Director General Dr Balram Bhargava said that the cases of Delta plus variant are very localised in India. The variant has also been found in 12 countries. He said that the variant has been isolated and cultured by ICMR’s National Institute of Virology.
“We are doing the same tests that we have done for Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta [varaints],” Bhargava said. “[We are] looking at the laboratory test to check the vaccine effect and this is ongoing and we should have these results in 7-10 days time whether the vaccine working against the Delta plus [variant].”
The ICMR chief advised cluster containment, isolation and treatment of cases, quarantining of those that had contact with a Covid-19 patient and ramping up the vaccination programme as measures to contain the spread of the Delta plus Covid-19 variant.
“Since the Delta variant is a variant of concern, its sub-lineage will also be considered a variant of concern,” said the National Centre for Disease Control Director. “If scientific evidence shows that it is more transmissible, we will inform about it.”
Singh said that “variants of concern” have been found in 174 districts of India, with the highest number of such infections reported from Maharashtra, Delhi, Punjab, Telangana, West Bengal and Gujarat.
“All these states had a different scenario [in terms of the spread of the variants of conern],” Singh said. “In some places, Delta variant was found more than others. If we look at the beginning, the Alpha variant was found more, which was gradually replaced by our Delta variant. This shows us that Delta variant is a stronger variant than Alpha variant.”
He said that the Alpha variant has been found in 3,969 patients, Beta in 149, Gamma in one and Delta and Kappa variant in 16,238. Singh added that the proportion of “variant of concern” cases have increased from 10.31% in May to 51% as of June 20.
Bhargava added that there are 16 countries where there are more than 25% of Delta variant cases, including Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Russia.
A “variant of concern” has the highest threat perception among other coronavirus variants because of its increased transmissibility, infectivity, or resistance to vaccines.
On June 14, the World Health Organization had classified the Delta variant as a “variant of concern”. The Delta plus variant, formally known as AY.1 or B.1.617.2.1, is a mutation of the Delta variant.
The Delta variant was responsible for the devastating second wave of the pandemic in India, a government study showed earlier in June. India is still recovering from the aftermath of the second wave, 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, causing citizens to take to social media to ask for help.
The country’s daily cases have now begun to decline. On Friday. India reported 51,667 new coronavirus cases, taking the total number of infections since the outbreak of the pandemic in January 2020 to 3,01,34,445. The country’s toll rose by 1,329 to 3,93,310. India’s tally of active cases stood at 6,12,868, while the number of recoveries reached 2,91,28,267.