The central government has warned against the Delta Plus variant, a new mutant version of the Delta strain of Covid first detected in India, and has called it a "variant of concern". This comes just weeks after India started registering a dip in COVID-19 cases following a deadly second wave that saw cases even touching the 4-lakh mark per day. Cases of the new variant have been found in Maharashtra's Ratnagiri and Jalgaon; Kerala's Palakkad and Pathanamthitta, and in Madhya Pradesh's Bhopal and Shivpuri.
In its advisory, the Centre has asked chief secretaries of these 3 states to take up immediate containment measures in these districts and clusters, as identified by INSACOG (Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia), including preventing crowds and intermingling of people, widespread testing, prompt tracing as well as vaccine coverage on a priority basis.
Experts in Maharashtra fear the new variant could potentially trigger the third wave. "It is worrisome because we do not know enough about how it is going to behave from here," Om Shrivastava, a member of the Maharashtra Task Force on COVID, told NDTV.
What is the Delta Plus variant?
The Delta Plus variant is a mutant version of B.1.617.2 strain, which was called Delta by the World Health Organisation. Experts say the Delta strain drove the second wave of COVID-19, infecting millions and leading to the deaths of thousands.
What the government says on Delta Plus
According to an official statement, the Delta Plus Variant has shown
- Increased transmissibility
- Stronger binding to receptors of lung cells
- Potential reduction in monoclonal antibody response
How dangerous is the new Delta Plus variant?
There is very little evidence of how virulent the new strain is.
Experts in Maharashtra, one of the worst-hit states during the first and second waves, say that owing to the new variant, the third wave may come earlier than predicted. The state, which has reported most of the cases of the new variant, is already preparing for a third wave.
The Delta Plus is active in US, UK, Portugal, Switzerland, Japan, Poland, Russia, China, and India.
Maharashtra is currently collecting data, including travel history and vaccination status, of those who have reported this version of the virus.
Are vaccines not effective against this variant?
It's too early to say. The government says Covishield and Covaxin are effective against the Delta variant but data on how effective they are against the Delta Plus will be shared later.
In India, COVID-19 cases 19 per cent higher
India reported 50,848 new COVID-19 cases and 1,358 deaths in a 24-hour period ending on June 23 morning. This is 19 per cent rise than was recorded on June 22. Since the onset of the pandemic, India has reported over 3 crore cases.
When it comes to vaccinations, India achieved a "milestone" on June 21, when 88.09 lakh vaccine doses were administered in 24 hours. However, the number dipped to around 53.4 lakh a day later, on June 22.