India has been reporting an increase in cases of the Delta plus variant of COVID-19 over the past week. The health ministry, on Friday, said that it has found at least 51 cases of the Delta Plus coronavirus variant in more than 10 states of the country. The Delta variant, which was highly responsible for the second wave of COVID-19 in the country, has spread to over 170 districts since it first emerged last year in October. The Delta Plus variant, which is a sub-lineage of the Delta variant, has mutated into a more dangerous form.
Classifying the Delta Plus variant of coronavirus as a “Variant of Concern’ (VOC), the health ministry has directed all the states to take containment measures to contain COVID-19 clusters.
Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu reported the first death from the new variant on Saturday. This comes a day after an 80-year-old woman died of the Delta Plus variant in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri, the first such death reported in India.
At least 12 Indian states have been affected by Delta Plus variant – Maharashtra is the worst affected state with 22 cases, followed by Tamil Nadu (9) Madhya Pradesh (7), Kerala (3), Punjab (2), Gujarat (2), and one case each in Odisha, Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan.
Recently, India lifted lockdowns and allowed businesses and markets to reopen. Amid the emergence of new variants of COVID-19, experts are warning of a third wave that could be hit the country within a few weeks.
What Is The Delta Plus Variant?
The Delta Plus variant of coronavirus, scientifically known as AY.1 and first detected in April this year in India, appears to be the more transmissible and dangerous form of COVID-19. The variant is related to the existing form of Delta that spreads more easily in the human body, attacking lung cells. The Delta Plus affects advanced protein – the part of the virus which binds to the cells it infects. “Delta plus is having greater affinity to mucosal lining in the lungs, higher compared to other variants, but if it causes damage or not is not clear yet,” Dr. N.K. Arora, chairman of the COVID-19 Working Group of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI), told PTI.
Raman Gangakhedkar, ex-Head Scientist of Epidemiology & Communicable Diseases, ICMR, has said that there is still no knowledge about how much transmission efficiency can be added by the new mutation. Speaking with ANI, he further added that as we don’t have any data of the new variant, so it would be a bit early to say that Delta Plus is spreading more rapidly compared to the Delta variant.
NTAGI chairman Dr. Arora also added that while it is difficult to predict if the new variant will lead to a third wave yet due to lack of data, micro-containment plans and fulfilling vaccination targets are key to limiting infections and fatalities.
Where Are Delta, Delta Plus Spreading?
Public Health England has released new data that shows that the country has seen a 46 percent rise in Delta cases. In just the past week, UK reported over 35,000 new COVID-19 cases as a result of the new variant, making it a growing concern among people and health experts in the country. According to latest data, 177 deaths have occurred in the country so far due to the Delta variant.
The United States has also seen a significant increase in the number of Delta Plus variant affected people over the last few weeks. According to a report, more than 80 cases have been detected in the US so far.
Chief medical advisor to the US government Dr. Anthony Fauci, who already considered the Delta variant “greatest threat” to America, has said that the country now has 20 percent of a new form of COVID cases, which will become more dominant in the next couple of weeks.
During the briefing with the White House, Dr. Fauci said that the country has enough resources to tackle the Delta variant.
As of now, more than 200 people have been infected with the Delta Plus variant in 11 countries. Only 2 deaths have been reported so far, in India. Apart from India, the UK and the US, the Delta Plus has also been detected in Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, Canada, Japan, Nepal, Poland and Portugal.
What Does WHO Say?
Chief scientist of the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said that WHO is tracking and studying the Delta and Delta Plus variants. She said that the Delta Plus variant could potentially impact the antibody killing of the virus and so there is concern around the world that this mutant can be more deadly.
According to the WHO, the Delta variants that can be seen in more than 80 countries, are becoming a more dominant strain globally.
In the view of new variants, health experts around the world have urged nations to speed up their vaccination programmes and continue to follow the COVID-19 protocols to contain the spread of the virus.
According to the centre’s estimates detailed in an affidavit to the Supreme Court on Sunday, the Indian government plans to vaccinate all adults by the end of this year.