Two new variants of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) have been detected in at least three states in India, the Union Health Ministry said on Tuesday, adding that there was no evidence to show that they were responsible for the fresh wave of infections.
“There are two variants in Maharashtra being talked about – N440K variant and E484K variant. Yes, these variants are there in Maharashtra, Kerala and Telangana,” said Dr VK Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog.

Dr Paul underlined that 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, 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,” he underlined.

Director-General, ICMR, Dr Balram Bhargava told News18 that the variants are neither new nor Indian. “These two virus strains have been detected in other countries too and are not specific to India. Moreover, they have been found earlier in some states in India. The E484Q strain was earlier detected in four sequences in Maharashtra as early as March and July last year. The N440K mutation has been reported on 13 different occasions between May and September 2020 in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Assam. The current upsurge in Maharashtra cannot be attributed to the currently discussed point mutations.”

 Dr Paul also said that India has 194 people infected with the UK, South Africa and Brazil strains.

“A total of 187 individuals have been reported infected with UK strain, six people with South African strain and one with Brazilian strain till date,” Dr Paul said.

“Based on information available to us, there’s no reason today for us to believe that these are responsible for the upsurge of the outbreak that you see in some districts of Maharashtra and Kerala.”

According to figures, Maharashtra and Kerala have contributed over 50,000 cases or 75% of the total caseload today. Kerala is responsible for 37.85 per cent of cases, while Maharashtra for 36.87 per cent, the health ministry said.

On the other hand, India’s cumulative positivity rate shows a downward trend and was 5.19 per cent on Tuesday. “Positivity rate — cumulative as well as weekly and daily — is declining across the country,” health ministry secretary Rajesh Bhushan said.

Bhushan also said that India has inoculated at least 1.17 crore people — 1.04 crore got the first dose and 12.61 lakh the second dose — across the country.

“The active cases continue to be less than 1.50 lakh. If you look at the average of deaths taking place daily, it was 92 last week- a trend of fewer than 100 deaths,” Bhushan said in a weekly press briefing.

(With agency inputs)

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