The country has reported 48 cases of the Delta Plus variants across 10 states, Dr SK Singh, director, National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), said on Friday at a media briefing of the health ministry. Maharashtra has reported 20 cases, Tamil Nadu nine and Madhya Pradesh seven.
Dr Balram Bhargava, director general, ICMR, said the 48 cases were localised, but would require continuous monitoring to see if the vaccines were working or if the disease was more transmissible or severe. Covishield and Covaxin are working against the Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta variants, Bhargava said. There was a slight reduction of neutralisation capabilities with the Delta variant in both Covishield and Covaxin.
Laboratory tests to check the vaccine effect on the Delta Plus variant are under way, and the result will be available in seven to 10 days, Bhargava said. This will be the first such result available in the world to see whether vaccines are working against the Delta Plus variant. If needed, the composition of the vaccines could be changed as per circulating variants of concern or variants of interest, Bhargava said.
Delta Plus is a Delta variant along with a mutation (K417N), and is a ‘variant of concern’. The INSACOG, the SARS-CoV-2 genomic consortium, is now looking into what kind of impact it would have on transmission and severity of the Covid-19 disease.
The number of cases with variants of concern has risen from 10.31% in May to 51% on June 20, Dr Singh said. Variants of concern increase transmissibility, change in virulence and effect diagnostics, drugs and vaccines. The Delta variant is accounting for more than 50% of the cases in eight states and was responsible for the exponential surge in the second wave. These are Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Kerala and West Bengal.
The Delta variant (B.1.617.2) was reported in one district in December 2020 and it went up to 52 districts in March 2021, and has reached 174 districts till June 21. Maharashtra has seven districts with variants of concern and accounts for 60% of the cases.