The highly transmissible coronavirus variant- Delta Plus- has been detected in 48 samples in 10 states across India, the Union Health Ministry said on Friday. Delta Plus (K417N) is the sub-lineage of the contagious Delta variant of Covid-19 that had contributed to the deadly second wave that peaked in April-May this year across the country.
Of these 48 samples, Maharashtra had recorded 20, followed by Tamil Nadu (9) and Madhya Pradesh (7). According to the data released by the Ministry, the variant had been present in 52 districts across the country in March and spread to 174 districts by June.
The Delta Plus variant has been detected amidst the fear of the third wave of the virus. The ICMR chief Dr Balram Bhargava even warned that the second wave of epidemic is not over yet though more than 500 districts reported less than 5 per cent test positivity.
“The second wave is not yet over in the country. We have still got 75 districts that have more than 10 per cent prevalence, and we have 92 districts that have between 5 per cent and 10 per cent prevalence,” Dr Bhargava said.
“These districts are important, and it is possible for us to avert a third big wave provided individuals and the society adhere to Covid-appropriate behaviour and avoid mass gatherings… Any indicative hotspot that we find, they need to be identified and isolated,” he said.
While experts say it is too early to tell whether the Delta Plus variant is more potent or deadlier than other variants of the coronavirus since there is minimal scientific evidence available. They also warn that the scenario would change within weeks.
The efficacy of the vaccine over the Delta plus variant is also being questioned. But the Centre maintained that both the COVID-19 vaccines that have been in use across the country are effective against all the variants- Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta.
“We are conducting the study to find if vaccines work against Delta plus variant. Such data is available nowhere in the country. The report will be available in 7 to 10 days. India was also the first country to culture Delta variant. Now we are working on Delta Plus, as we have enough information on Alpha, Beta,” Bhargava said in a press briefing.
Earlier, Professor Shahid Jameel warned that the Delta Plus variant likely to be more equipped to dodge vaccine-driven immunity since it carries features of the original Delta variant and the Beta variant.
“We already know that the Beta variant evades COVID-19 vaccines much better than the Alpha or the Delta variants, as evidenced by the fact that the South African government had returned a consignment of AstraZeneca vaccines,” he said.