Covid worry rising, with many mutants detected

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on March 24, 2021

Passengers giving samples for the Covid-19 Rapid Antigen test, at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus in Mumbai, on Wednesday   -  -

UK variant dominates; double-mutations also found in samples from 18 States

As Covid-19 infections continued to surge across the country, different mutant strains, including the UK variant, have been detected. Out of 771 cases of mutant strains found in 18 States, 736 were the UK variant, 34 the South African variety and one the Brazilian type.

According to data presented to the media by National Centre for Disease Control Director Sujeet Kumar Singh on Wednesday, out of 10,787 samples subjected to genomic sequencing, 771 were mutant strains.

Significantly, 336 of these mutant strains were found in samples collected from Punjab, which is witnessing a rampant increase in Covid-19 cases after Maharashtra. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had said on Tuesday that of 401 samples sent for genomic analysis, 81 per cent were positive for the UK variant.

Besides these, the Indian SARS-CoV2 Genomic Consortium (INSACOG), a chain of 10 laboratories involved in identifying genetic variations in the novel coronavirus, found that 15-20 per cent samples from Maharashtra have not one but two simultaneous mutations.

Similarly, the scientists identified 123 cases of N440K strain in the 2,000-odd samples sequenced from Kerala. Though the strain has still not been declared as a variant of concern, N440K is found to evade immune response and was found to be present significantly in samples collected earlier from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

“So far we have not received any clue that can link the surge in cases, which is seen in many States, to these mutations,” Singh said. The spike was mainly due to larger susceptible population in cities that are seeing steep increase in cases, he said citing the example of Nagpur, which reported relatively fewer number of cases in the past.

Meeting with States

Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, also present at the briefing, described the situation in Maharashtra and Punjab as of grave concern and said the Ministry has convened a meeting on Saturday of health officials of the States and districts that are reporting a spike in cases to rethink strategies to contain the surge.

States and Union Territories across the country carried out a total of around 13.54 lakh vaccinations till 7 pm on Wednesday, taking cumulative number of vaccine doses administered till date to around 5.21 crore.

Published on March 24, 2021

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