India Detects Two New Covid Strains In Kerala, Maharashtra

By Sahil Pandey & Priyanka Sharma

Even as the country’s COVID-19 trajectory is declining, India has detected two new variants of the virus– namely N440 K and E484Q in Maharashtra and Kerala, the Union Health Ministry said on Tuesday.

The Centre, however, noted that there is no scientific evidence to believe that these two newer virus strains are responsible for the surge in cases in some districts in these two states.

“Two new variants– N440K and E484Q have been found in Maharashtra, Kerala and Telangana. However, it cannot be assured that these two new virus strains are responsible for the surge of fresh COVID-19 in these states,” Dr VK Paul, Member (Health) of the NITI Aayog said during the weekly COVID-19 update.

Echoing similar views, Dr Balram Bhargava, Director General of ICMR pointed: “There is no direct relation between the recent surge in COVID19 cases in Maharashtra and some other States with the mutant virus strains N440K and E484Q of coronavirus disease.”

The E484Q strain was earlier detected in four sequences in Maharashtra as early as March and July 2020. The N440K mutation has been reported on 13 different occasions between May and September 2020 in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Assam,” Dr Bhargava said.

In the recent past, India has already reported different mutants of the Covid-19 virus. These include the UK virus strain, the variant from Brazil and the South African strain. These three virus strain all together have affected at least 194 individuals across the country.

Dr Paul further said that till date about 187 individuals have tested positive for the UK virus strain, six people with South African strain, and one with the Brazilian strain.

“The behaviour of mutations is being constantly and closely watched in the country and 3500 viruses have been sequenced so far,” said the Niti Aayog member.

“When we are doing sequencing, we are looking for any abnormal shift in the virus character. We have been watching the mutants,” he said.

“We would like to apprise you today that we are constantly watching the behaviour of mutations in our country. Today based on the information and as analysed and understood by a very eminent scientific advisory group of Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG), we would like to underline the fact that we do not see attribution of mutant strains to the upsurge of the infection being seen in some districts. But this is a work in progress. We will continue to watch the situation with full responsibility,” Dr Paul said.

He also warned that a large population is still vulnerable and asked people to strictly follow COVID-appropriate behaviour, ie, wearing masks, social distancing, handwashing and not getting into crowded places.

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan mentioned that 12 states and union territories including Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Odisha have administered the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to more than 75 per cent of their registered healthcare workers.

On the other hand, 11 states and UTs including Karnataka, Telangana, Delhi, Punjab and Chandigarh have inoculated the first dose to less than 60 per cent of registered healthcare workers.

So far, about 1,17,54,788 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered across the country till Tuesday at 1 pm, with 1,04,93,205 getting the first dose and 12,61,583 being given the second dose. (ANI)

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