POST TIME: 23 June, 2021 04:00:44 PM / LAST MODIFIED: 23 June, 2021 06:32:07 PM
Delta Plus, a potentially deadlier coronavirus variant, causing concern in India
The Straits Times, New Delhi

Delta Plus, a potentially deadlier coronavirus variant, causing concern in India

India has passed 30 million Covid-19 infections since the pandemic began. Photo: AFP

The Delta coronavirus with a particular spike protein mutation - dubbed Delta Plus - has been labelled a "variant of concern" by the Indian government.

This decision was announced on Tuesday (June 22) after scientists working at a consortium of genomic sequencing labs told the government they had found evidence suggesting the new variant is more transmissible, with stronger binding to lung cells and a potential resistance to treatment by monoclonal antibodies.

There have been at least 22 cases of Covid-19 caused by the Delta Plus variant detected in the country so far, in the states of Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has advised these states to take up "immediate containment measures" in the districts and clusters where this variant has been reported.

Measures suggested include preventing crowds and intermingling of people, widespread testing and prompt tracing as well as widespread vaccination.

"The (central government) has sent an advisory to these states about their public health response. The measures, while broadly remaining the same as have been implemented by them earlier, have to become more focused and effective. We don't want this small number to take a bigger form," Dr V.K. Paul, a member of a government policy think tank, told reporters.The ministry has also directed the three states to "promptly" send adequate samples of those testing positive to government laboratories for further epidemiological studies.

The new variant, referred to as Delta with K417N, has been found in several other countries, including the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Japan, Nepal, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Switzerland and Turkey. A majority of these reported cases are from the US, UK and Portugal.

There is so far no publicly available data on how effective the vaccines currently being used in India are against Delta Plus and the government has said it will share this information as and when it becomes available.