A health worker collects a swab sample from a woman for Covid-19 test in Sector-31, Gurugram. (HT archive)
A health worker collects a swab sample from a woman for Covid-19 test in Sector-31, Gurugram. (HT archive)

SA, Brazil Covid-19 variants in India: All we know about the two mutations

Four people who flew into India last month were infected with the South African variant of the Sars-CoV-2 virus, and another traveller was found infected with the Brazilian variant
By HT Correspondent | Edited by Sameer
UPDATED ON FEB 17, 2021 12:04 PM IST

The Centre on Tuesday said four people who flew into India last month were infected with the South African variant of the Sars-CoV-2 virus, and another traveller was found infected with the Brazilian variant. Here is what we know about the detection of the two mutations:

• Scientists fear the mutations can make coronavirus vaccines less effective and trigger reinfections among people.

• Authorities have carried out contact tracing for the five people, and no other person is found to have contracted the new variants till now.

• People returning from South Africa and Brazil will now be tested more aggressively.

• There are no direct flights from South Africa or Brazil.

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• The health ministry and the civil aviation ministry are in touch on the steps to be taken on the matter.

• India now has all three coronavirus variants that are a global concern -- B.1.1.7, first discovered in the UK; B.1.351, which is now dominant in South Africa; and P.1, which has spread in Brazil.

• All three have a unique collection of mutations, two of which -- N501Y and E484K -- seem to make it spread more readily or cheat vaccine-immunity triggered by the virus predominant in the world.

• The UK variant carries the N501Y mutation.

• The Brazilian variant has the E484K mutation

• The South African variant has both.

• Genomic tests of all positive cases among people, who arrive from Brazil and South Africa, are likely to be carried out.

•The passengers from South Africa and Brazil do not take direct flights. The traffic is largely routed from other sectors like the Gulf.

• The South African strains were found among two people who returned from the country as well as one traveller each from Angola and Tanzania.

• All travellers and contacts have been tested and quarantined.

• The South African and Brazil variants are different from the UK variant.

• The Brazilian and South African variants have the capacity to easily enter the lungs.

• Last year, the Union government created the Indian Sars-Cov-2 Genomic Consortium of 10 laboratories based at the National Centre for Disease Control, Union ministry of health and family welfare, as part of a surveillance mechanism for early detection of variants of concern.

• Experiments in South Africa have shown that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine’s efficacy dropped to an insignificant 22% against the B.1.351 variant.

• South Africa dropped its plan last week to use the vaccine, which is also being used in India as Covishield, and has decided to offer doses to the African Union, where the variant has not reached.

• Vaccine trials carried out by Johnson & Johnson-Janssen and Novavax too showed a significant drop in efficacy due to the variant.

• Similar implications could also hold for people who were previously infected.

• World Health Organization chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said on February 14 that they had received new reports of reinfection, including some from South Africa where people who had Covid-19 were infected again.

• The coronavirus outbreak has waned dramatically in India

• Over the past week, the country recorded around 93 deaths a day -- a level not seen since early May.

• The decrease has raised fears that people might become complacent, and that variants such as the three of global concern could take hold, wiping out population immunity and triggering a resurgence.

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