What is the ‘Delta Plus’ variant of coronavirus?

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Pune, India: Indian authorities said on Wednesday they had found around 40 cases of the Delta coronavirus variant carrying a mutation that appears to make it more transmissible, and advised states to increase testing.

It has been found in Britain, parts of Europe and North America, as well as India.

Below is what we know about the variant.

Coronavirus safety posters are displayed in the window of the Sondheim Theatre, London. The city is extended restrictions over the Delta variant.Credit:Getty Images

India said on Wednesday that around 40 cases of the variant had been observed in the states of Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh, with “no significant increase in prevalence”. The earliest case in India is from a sample taken on April 5.

Britain said its first five cases were sequenced on April 26 and they were contacts of individuals who had travelled from, or transited through, Nepal and Turkey.

No deaths were reported among the UK and Indian cases.

Should we be worried?

Studies are ongoing in India and globally to test the effectiveness of vaccines against this mutation.

“WHO is tracking this variant as part of the Delta variant, as we are doing for other Variants of Concern with additional mutations,” the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a statement sent to Reuters.

“For the moment, this variant does not seem to be common, currently accounting for only a small fraction of the Delta sequences … Delta and other circulating variants of concern remain a higher public health risk as they have demonstrated increases in transmission,” it said.

But India’s Health Ministry warned that regions where it has been found “may need to enhance their public health response by focusing on surveillance, enhanced testing, quick contact-tracing and priority vaccination.”

There are worries Delta Plus would inflict another wave of infections on India after it emerged from the world’s worst surge in cases only recently.

“The mutation itself may not lead to a third wave in India – that also depends on COVID-appropriate behaviour, but it could be one of the reasons,” said Tarun Bhatnagar, a scientist with the state-run Indian Council for Medical Research.

Reuters

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