by Peerzada Arshad Hamid
NEW DELHI, March 24 (Xinhua) -- India's federal health ministry said on Wednesday that a new "double mutant variant" of the COVID-19 has been detected in more than a dozen states across the country, in addition to many other strains or variants of concern (VOCs) that have also been found abroad.
"Though VOCs and a new double mutant variant have been found in India, these have not been detected in numbers sufficient to either establish or direct relationship or explain the rapid increase in cases in some states. Genomic sequencing and epidemiological studies are continuing to further analyze the situation," a statement released by the federal health ministry said.
So far, 771 VOCs have been detected in a total of 10,787 positive samples shared by the states, including the variants first detected in Britain, South Africa and Brazil respectively, said the ministry.
"Genome sequencing and analysis have been carried out on samples from arriving international travellers, contacts of those positive for VOC and community samples from most of the states," the ministry said.
Meanwhile, the ministry said analysis of samples from Maharashtra state has revealed that compared to December 2020, there has been an increase in the fraction of samples with the E484Q and L452R mutations.
"Such mutations confer immune escape and increased infectivity. These mutations have been found in about 15-20 percent of samples and do not match any previously catalogued VOCs," the ministry said.
"These have been categorized as VOCs but require the same epidemiological and public health response of increased testing, comprehensive tracking of close contacts, prompt isolation of positive cases and contacts as well as treatment as per national treatment protocol by the states."
Meanwhile, 2,032 samples from Kerala state have been sequenced.
"The N440K variant that is associated with immune escape has been found in 123 samples from 11 districts. This variant was earlier found in 33 percent of samples from Andhra Pradesh, and in 53 of 104 samples from Telangana," the ministry said.
This variant has also been reported from other countries including Britain, Denmark, Singapore, Japan and Australia, it said, adding that as of now these can be at best said to be variant under investigation.
Officials on Wednesday morning said India reported 47,262 fresh COVID-19 cases and 275 more deaths during the past 24 hours.
According to the health ministry, the states of Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat are reporting a surge in the COVID-19 daily cases, accounting for 77.44 percent of the new cases nationwide.
"Six states cumulatively account for 81.65 percent of the new cases reported in the past 24 hours. Maharashtra has reported the highest daily new cases at 28,699. It is followed by Punjab with 2,254 while Karnataka reported 2,010 new cases," the ministry said. Enditem