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India has recorded over 10,584 new daily cases and 78 deaths in the last 24 hours (AFP)
India has recorded over 10,584 new daily cases and 78 deaths in the last 24 hours (AFP)

Covid variants not behind sudden surge of cases in Maharashtra, other states: Govt

Two mutant strains, N440K and E484Q, have been observed in Maharashtra, Kerala and Telangana

The mutant strains circulating in India are not behind the sudden increase in covid-19 cases in some states, especially Maharashtra, the Union government said.

The central government said that the presence of two SARS-CoV-2 variants, N440K and E484K, has been observed in Maharashtra, Kerala and Telangana. The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium has also detected these variants.

“Out of 3,500 samples, which were subjected to sequencing, 187 had the presence of UK strain, 6 were found with South African strain, and one was detected to be of Brazilian strain," said V.K. Paul, member (health) of NITI Aayog.

“The virus is still around and going by the latest sero-survey data, many more cities are still vulnerable, other than the ones that have already experienced the pandemic," he said.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) maintained that there is no direct relation between the recent surge in covid-19 cases in Maharashtra and some other states with the mutant coronavirus strains, N440K and E484Q.

“These two virus strains have been detected in other countries too and are not specific to India. Moreover, they have been found earlier in some states in India. The E484Q strain was earlier detected in four sequences in Maharashtra as early as March 2020," ICMR director general Balram Bhargava said.

“The N440K mutation has been reported on 13 different occasions between May and September 2020 in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and Assam. The current upsurge in Maharashtra cannot be attributed to the currently discussed point mutations," he said. However, the situation is being constantly monitored.

India’s daily case count has inched higher in the last few weeks, with over 10,584 new daily cases and 78 deaths recorded in the last 24 hours. About 84% of the new cases are from six states. Maharashtra continues to report the highest daily new cases at 5,210. It is followed by Kerala with 2,212 while Tamil Nadu reported 449 new cases. Six states account for 84.62% of the new deaths, with Maharashtra recording maximum casualties (18). Kerala reported 16 deaths and Punjab reported 15 deaths, Union health ministry data showed.

“Maharashtra and Kerala are the only two states with more than 50,000 cases, which contribute about 75% of the total active cases in the country. These states remain a concern for us. Kerala has 37.85% of the active cases, while Maharashtra accounts for 36.87% active cases, followed by Karnataka at 4.13%, and Tamil Nadu at 2.78% of the total active cases in the country," Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan said.

The health ministry has sent central teams to some states and will send teams to more states that have shown a surge in covid-19 cases recently, Bhushan said. “Maharashtra is showing a daily surge in covid-19 cases. Kerala is showing an incremental decline, but the daily cases in absolute numbers is still high over there," Bhushan said. “Punjab, with its daily increase in cases, is also a cause of worry. Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh are also showing an increase in daily cases. Jammu and Kashmir had a sudden spike and then showed a reduction in number of daily cases," he said.

A central team of epidemiologists and public health experts will also visit Jammu and Kashmir, the Union health ministry said.

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