Nineteen new cases of the UK, South African and Brazilian strains of the coronavirus have been detected in India taking the total number of infections of the more contagious variants to 213, the government said today.
The Health Ministry had said in its last report there was one case of the Brazilian variant and six of the South African strain in the country. Of the other highly infectious variety, the UK strain, there were 187 cases in India.
The government had said that people flying in from these countries may be tested more aggressively. A fresh set of travel guidelines had been issued after the highly infectious strains were detected in India. The new rules apply to all incoming international passengers except those from the UK, Europe and Middle East, the health ministry had said.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the new strains are more contagious and spread faster, and vaccines could be less effective on these patients, although there is no proof.
All three strains have gone through changes to their spike protein, or the part of the virus which attaches to human cells, and they seem to be better at infecting cells, according to scientists.
The South African and Brazilian strains can more easily infect a person's lungs than the UK mutation, scientists say.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) chief Balram Bhargava had said existing vaccines have the potential to neutralise the UK variant and experiments are on to assess the effectiveness of the vaccines against the South African and Brazilian variants.
India has seen a sharp drop in infections in the past couple of months with only few states like Kerala, Punjab and Maharashtra battling a huge spike.
The second phase of Covid vaccination began today with Prime Minister Narendra Modi becoming the first beneficiary of Bharat Biotech's Covaxin.
The government hopes to vaccinate 30 crore people by August in the second phase.
More vaccines are likely to be approved for use in the coming months, including Russia's Sputnik-V and Cadila Healthcare's ZyCov-D.
India reported over 15,000 cases in the last 24 hours taking the total number of infections to over 1.11 crore.