As cases of Delta Plus variant increase, Centre calls for containment
The Centre has asked the state governments where cases of Delta Plus variant of coronavirus have surfaced, to redouble containment and testing efforts, and carry out surge vaccinations. The Union health ministry said on Wednesday that there are 40 confirmed infections with the Delta Plus variant, up from 22 a day before.
"The Public Health Response, in this case, while broadly remaining the same, has to become more focused and stringent. Thus, you are requested to take up immediate containment measures in these districts and clusters including preventing crowds and intermingling of people, widespread testing, prompt tracing as well as vaccine coverage on a priority basis," Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan said in a letter sent to state chief secretaries.
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Delta Plus has already been declared a variant of concern by the central government. The cases have primarily ben concentrated in three states - Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Kerala.
In Kerala, three villages have been shut and residents are being mandatorily tested for Covid-19, while in Maharashtra, health minister Rajesh Tope said that 100 samples from each district will immediately be sent for genome sequencing. Maharashtra saw a jump in its daily Covid-19 count on Wednesday, recording 10,066 fresh cases. Tope said it is a matter of concern that daily cases are not falling below 8,000.
Jammu and Kashmir and Karnataka's capital Bengaluru recorded their first case of Delta Plus variant on Wednesday. In J&K, the patient is a 39-year-old employee of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board. She has been kept in isolation at home with mild symptoms. Karnataka health minister Dr K Sudhakar said the state government has informed the Union health ministry about the Bengaluru case and further action is being planned.
Till now, the Delta Plus variant has been found in 197 samples across 11 countries - Britain, India, Canada, Japan, Nepal, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United States. No deaths have reported among the UK and Indian cases.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the National Institute of Virology (NIV) have decided to conduct a study to see if the new and more potent variant of coronavirus can be neutralised by the existing vaccines in India.
The study is likely to involve Covaxin and Covishield vaccines.
"As per earlier data concerning Delta variant, neutralisation was happening with the existing vaccines in India. Though neutralisation has dropped, it's enough to protect against Delta variant. Delta Plus should also behave (in a similar manner). We are working in this direction. We have isolated this variant and we are going to conduct a study soon. We will come back with the study," she said.
All Delta sub-lineages are treated as variants of concern (VOC) and properties of AY.1 are still being investigated. Delta Plus is also known as 'AY.1' variant or B.1.617.2.1.