Even as Maharashtra has ramped up its vaccination and testing, the third wave of Covid-19 infection cannot be ruled out, said Dr Shekhar Mande, Director General of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), adding that the guard against the virus can’t be lowered.
“All pandemics came in a wave and a third wave could not be ruled out, Dr Mande said at a press conference on Sunday, urging people in Maharashtra to exercise restraint in their movement to check the rapid spread of the disease.
He said that Maharashtra is reeling under the virus’ double mutated strain, L452R and E484Q, and the crisis needed to be watched closely.
“Whether or not it is fuelling the crisis can be better understood as we will be releasing our analysis of data from Maharashtra soon. More institutes will soon be added to the INSACOG (Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics). From today, National Chemical Laboratory will also join in the effort along with NIV (National Institute of Virology) and NCCS (National Centre for Cell Science) for genomic sequencing of samples,” Dr Mande said on Sunday.
The INSACOG is a grouping of 10 National Laboratories that was established by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfares, found the variant while carrying out genomic sequencing and analysis of circulating Covid-19 viruses.
The INSACOG had said that it found an increase in samples with E484Q and L452R mutations — a double mutant variant with two mutations. This means two mutations coming together in the same variant creating a new one.
Both the E484Q and L452R mutations have been detected earlier, but the ‘double mutant variant’ is novel to India.
“The situation is becoming worse in Tier 2 and 3 cities and, hence, people should make maximum efforts to help curb the spread of the infection. It is possible that people have carried this mutant strain from California. We have also seen rising numbers in Brazil, France and England. But what we need to ensure is arrest and cut the chain of transmission. We cannot afford to let complacency set in and need to adopt Covid-appropriate behaviour at all times. For at least a year or two, large gatherings at weddings or birthday parties should be restricted. In times of crisis, historically, Maharashtra has always shown the way forward,” Dr Mande said.
“Vaccines were able to protect against extreme severe episodes. While scientific studies and review of literature on vaccines and their role with mutant strains were underway, there was a definite impact that could help reduce the intensity of the disease,” he added.
The E484Q has been detected in 11 countries earlier including US, UK, Denmark and Switzerland. The L452R mutation has also been detected previously in 22 countries including New Zealand, Sweden, Australia. The new variant has been categorised as a ‘variant of concern’ or VOCs.
The new ‘double mutant variant’ and 771 VOCs were found in samples collected from 18 states across the country.