Two variants of SARS-CoV-2 — N440K and E484K — have been detected in Maharashtra and Kerala but there is no reason to believe presently on the that they are responsible for the surge in cases in some districts in these two states, the Centre said on Tuesday.
One of the two variants has also been detected in Telangana.
Addressing a press conference in New Delhi, NITI Aayog Member (Health) VK Paul said that 187 people have tested positive for the UK strain of SARS-CoV-2 in the country so far, while six people have detected with the South Africa variant. Also, one person has tested positive for the Brazil variant strain.
“Both the N440K and E484K variants of SARS-CoV-2 have been detected in Maharashtra. In Kerala and Telangana also these variants have been found. Also, three other mutated strains — one each from UK, South Africa and Brazil are already present in the country. But there is no reason for us to believe, on the basis of scientific information, that they are responsible for the upsurge of the outbreak in some districts of Maharashtra and Kerala,” Mr Paul said.
Reporting only detection does not lead to any attribution for a phenomenon on the ground because to relate the occurrence of a virus mutation to change in disease pattern, other epidemiological information and clinical information has to be linked to these mutants, Mr Paul said, adding, “because otherwise these (mutations) happen but they have no influence on the pandemic.”
He said the behaviour of mutations is being constantly and closely watched in the country and 3,500 strains have been sequenced so far.
“When we are doing sequencing, we are looking for any abnormal shift in the virus character. We have been watching the mutants.
“Today, based on the information and as analyzed 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 work in progress. We will continue to watch the situation with full responsibility,” Mr Paul said.
The SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) was established in December end for laboratory and epidemiological surveillance of circulating strains of SARS-CoV-2 in the country.
Stating that a large proportion of the population is still vulnerable, Mr Paul stressed that COVID appropriate behaviour like wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, hand washing and not getting into mass gatherings should be followed.
Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said that a total of 1,17,54,788 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the country till Tuesday 1 pm, with 1,04,93,205 getting the first dose and 12,61,583 being given the second dose.
Mr Bhushan said that 12 states and union territories, including Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Odisha, have administered first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to more than 75 per cent of the registered healthcare workers, while 11 states and UTs, including Karnataka, Telangana, Delhi, Punjab and Chandigarh, have administered the first dose to less than 60 per cent of healthcare workers.
Two states, Kerala and Maharashtra, account for 75 per cent of total active COVID-19 cases in country, and six people have been detected with South Africa strain of SARS-CoV-2 in India so far.