24 Mar 2021: 'Double mutant variant' of COVID-19 found in 18 states: Centre
A new "double mutant variant" of COVID-19 has been detected in 18 states in India, the Union Health Ministry said on Wednesday.
Separately, other variants of concern (VOCs) that were found abroad have also been detected in the country, it said.
The announcement comes as India has been witnessing a fresh surge in coronavirus infections over the past several weeks.
Here are more details.
Variant: 771 VOCs detected in 10,787 samples
The Health Ministry said that these variants "have not been detected in numbers sufficient to either establish a direct relationship or explain the rapid increase in cases in some states."
771 VOCs have been detected in a total of 10,787 samples in India including the UK variant (found in 736 samples), the South African variant (34), and the Brazilian variant (1).
Testing: Samples genome sequenced by INSACOG
The Ministry said that these samples were subjected to genome sequencing by INSACOG (Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia), a consortium of ten national laboratories.
"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," the Ministry said.
Outbreak: 1.17 crore people infected in India so far
According to the Union Health Ministry, as of 8 am on Wednesday, India had reported a total of 1,17,34,058 COVID-19 infections.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, 1,12,05,160 patients have recovered from COVID-19, and only 3,68,457 infections are active.
The death toll has risen to 1,60,441.
India added 47,905 new cases and 275 fresh fatalities on Wednesday.
Restrictions: States/UTs allowed to impose local curbs
On Tuesday, the Home Ministry had warned that the COVID-19 situation might aggravate with the upcoming festivals, noting general laxity in compliance with COVID-19 appropriate behavior.
The government has hence allowed states/union territories to introduce local curbs, and called for scaling up RT-PCR testing and vaccinations.
Commercial passenger services to/from India have also been suspended till 11:59 pm IST on April 30.