New Delhi: The Central government on Tuesday flagged the new mutated variant of Covid-19, Delta Plus, as the ‘variant of concern’ — a significant change in risk appraisal from the “variant of interest” categorisation made hours earlier. The Centre also urged the public to avoid large gatherings and maintain Covid-appropriate behaviour, in view of much anticipated third covid wave which could be triggered by this new variant.
The decision came even as the new variant has been detected in 22 samples from mainly Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri and Jalgaon districts (16), apart from Kerala’s Palakkad and Pathanamthitta, and MP’s Bhopal and Shivpuri districts. The Centre suggested immediate containment measures, including preventing crowds and intermingling of people, widespread testing, prompt contact tracing as well as vaccine coverage on a priority basis in these districts.
The detection of the variant in areas that have seen persistent and stubborn infection is seen as a cause of concern as mutations tend to emerge in areas where the virus has entrenched presence and higher positivity rates.
“Broadly speaking, both Covishield and Covaxin are effective against the Delta variant. We will shortly share to what extent and the proportion of antibody titers they produce,” health secretary Rajesh Bhushan said. States were also advised to ensure adequate samples of positive persons are promptly sent to the designated laboratories of INSACOG so that clinical epidemiological correlations, linking the variant to tranmission, can be made for further guidance to be provided to states.
The Delta-plus variant was detected in India during genome sequencing of samples by INSACOG, which has so far sequenced 45,000 samples. “The labs of INSACOG bring this information to the notice of health ministry which then in timely manner indicates to the concerned states what are the activities that have to be initiated to curb the spread. The public health response is standardised for the variants,” he said.
Officials said states have been asked to take a focused approach to ensure spread is controlled locally. Many experts fear that the new variant could be more dangerous and spread faster to potentially trigger a third wave.