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The newly detected COVID-19 Delta Plus variant is not yet classified as a 'variant of concern', the government said. The comment comes after it has been confirmed that the Delta variant of coronavirus has further mutated to form the 'Delta plus' or 'AY.1' variant. All data regarding the new COVID-19 Delta Plus variant have already been submitted to the global data system.

Dr. VK Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog, said, “The present status is that yes, a new variant has been found. This is as of now a Variant of Interest (VoI), not as yet classified a Variant of Concern (VoC). VoC is one in which we have understood that there are adverse consequences to humanity, which could be due to increased transmissibility or virulence. We do not know at this moment this about the COVID-19 Delta Plus variant."

Noting that the effect of this change, i.e. the new variant, needs to be studied in a more scientific manner, Paul said, "We need to monitor it through The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG) in order to assess and detect its potential presence and growth in our country. This is the way forward in relation to the virus."

He further mentioned that this will be an important area of future work for our comprehensive system of almost 28 laboratories. The system will constantly watch this and study its significance.

Follow COVID-appropriate behaviour to break the chain

Paul said the only way to tackle the COVID Delta Plus variant is by following COVID appropriate behaviour. He said, "The root cause is the chain of transmission. So, if we are able to address the root cause and break the chains of transmission, we will be able to contain the spread, whichever the variant may be."

"One of the important tools to tackle any new variant is by following COVID Appropriate Behaviour," he added.

Explaining the origin of the Delta Plus variant, Dr. Paul said: “During the second wave, Delta variant - B.1.617.2 exhibited its effect; its higher transmissibility played a major role in making the wave intense. Along the same line, an additional mutation has been detected, which has also been submitted to the Global Data System. This has been referred to as the 'Delta Plus' or 'AY.1' variant. The variant was observed in Europe in March and has been notified and brought into public domain on June 13, just two days ago."

He went on to explain that mRNA viruses are particularly predisposed to errors in their replication. When errors in replication of their RNA happen, the virus acquires a new character to a certain extent. “At times, it could be significant from the point of view of the disease, it could be in a region such as the spike protein through which the virus attaches to cells in the body. So if that part becomes smarter than the previous version, it is to our disadvantage. So we are worried about such variants."

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