New Delhi, March 24: As India witnessed a surge in COVID-19 cases, the Health Ministry on Wednesday informed that a total of 771 cases of coronavirus variants detected across 18 states in the country. Dr SK Singh, Director of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) informed that of the 771 cases, 736 cases are of UK variant, 34 of South African variant, and 1 of Brazilian variant. The 771 variants of concerns (VOCs) have been detected in a total of 10,787 positive samples shared by the states and union territories.
The Health Ministry said that genome sequencing and analysis have been carried out on samples from arriving international travelers, contacts of those positive for VOC and community samples from most of the States at INSACOG partner laboratories which are 10 in number. "The coronavirus variants cases include 736 samples positive for viruses of the UK (B.1.1.7) lineage, 34 samples of the South African (B.1.351) lineage and one sample of the Brazilian (P.1) lineage", the Health Ministry said. COVID-19 Surge in India: Centre Asks States, UTs To Impose Local Restrictions During Upcoming Festivals to Curb Spread.
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The analysis of samples from Maharashtra 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% of samples and do not match any previously catalogued VOCs.
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 & contacts as well as treatment as per National Treatment Protocol” by the States/UTs.
A total of 2,032 samples (from all 14 districts) have been sequenced.
The N440K variant that is associated with immune escape has been found in 123 samples from 11 districts.
Andhra Pradesh and Telangana
The N440K variant was earlier found in 33% of samples from Andhra Pradesh and in 53 of 104 samples from Telangana.
This variant has also been reported from 16 other countries including UK, Denmark, Singapore, Japan and Australia.
As of now these can be at best said to be variant under investigation.
Genomic sequencing and epidemiological studies are continuing to further analyze the situation. 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.