The Centre on Wednesday said a novel variant of the Sars-Cov-2 has been detected in seven states. Here is all you need to know about the detection and why it in part explains a surge in cases even as officials said it may be too soon to draw conclusions:
• The variant carries mutations that include those denoted by E484Q and L452R, which have separately been linked to characteristics that make the virus spread more readily and defeat, to some extent, immunity from a vaccine or past infection.
• Two of these, E484Q and L452R, have been seen as a combination in a variant the government described as “double mutant”.
• It was found in a large number of samples, 206, in Maharashtra, which is in the grip of its worst wave of infections yet.
• “These mutations have been found in about 15-20% of samples and do not match any previously catalogued VOCs [variants of concern],” the Union health ministry said in a statement.
• Sujeet Kumar, the director of the National Centre for Disease Control, said that while 206 samples from Maharashtra had the new variant, “data does not allow for us to make a direct correlation yet for the rise in cases.”
• But other experts said the likelihood of a correlation is very high.
• “If 20% of samples in states like Maharashtra have shown mutant variants, it is very likely that the surge in Covid-19 cases is being driven by these mutations,” said Dr Gagandeep Kang, one of India’s top vaccinologists.
• The government also confirmed the discovery of a large number of people with the UK variant (B.1.1.7) in Punjab (336 cases) and in the case of this variant too.
• Delhi recorded the second-highest number of samples with this variant at 75.
• The UK variant is one of three VOCs.
• The other two were first seen in South Africa (B.1.351) and Brazil (P.1).
• In all, 771 samples from 18 states have turned up positive for these VOCs.
• Experts said the situation must now be closely watched, particularly in states where a large number of samples have the novel variant or the variants of concern.
• On Wednesday, Maharashtra accounted for 60% of the 53,410 daily new cases in the country and Punjab 5% although cases here have risen sharply from a low base.