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Delta-Plus variant reported from Maharashtra, experts warn mutation could result

At least seven cases of Delta-plus variant have been found in samples collected from Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri, Navi Mumbai and Palghar while more samples have been sent for genome sequencing to understand if the variant is dominant or scattered.

A report in The Indian Express said the new variant is formed by mutation in the Delta (B.1.617.2) variant, and it is currently a “variant of interest”, and hasn’t been classified as a “variant of concern” yet.

Experts in Maharashtra have warned that Delta plus variant might be the reason behind a third wave of Covid-19 and could take active caseload up to eight lakh and 10 per cent of them could be children, another report in Hindustan Times said.

The report said the mutation in the virus’s spike protein facilitates entry into human host cells. While the new strain has better “immune-escaping mechanism”, it is being researched its transmissibility, virulence and whether the mutant is resistant to the monoclonal antibody cocktail treatment.

“We found Delta-plus in Navi Mumbai, Palghar and Ratnagiri. After that, we sent more samples, but final reports are awaited,” Dr TP Lahane, Director of the Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER) reportedly said.

It is pertinent to note that while the cases are falling in the state, Western Maharashtra districts, including Kolhapur, Sindhudurg, Raigad, Ratnagiri, Satara and Sangli have reported a consistently high number of Covid-19 cases and positivity rate.

Five of the seven cases of Delta-plus variants were reported from Ratnagiri, where the positivity rate is 13.7 percent as compared to the state’s average of 5.8 percent.

Meanwhile in Ratnagiri, Dr Sanghamitra Gawde, civil surgeon, said they have immediately created containment zones and sealed entire villages. In two cases, the infected people had no symptoms.

Dr Gawde adds, “The villages where we found the Delta-plus variant also have people who travel abroad frequently. The infected case in question though has no travel history.”

The Covid-19 task force in the state made a presentation to chief minister Uddhav Thackeray on Wednesday, where they voiced their concern. “The Delta plus variant could stoke the third wave in Maharashtra. It could spread at double the rate,” said an official during the presentation.

According to the projection, if a third wave caused by Delta Plus hits the state, the number will be the highest. The projection is worrisome also because many people will be completely vaccinated by that time.

The first case of Delta plus variant was reported in Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh. The patient is a 65-year-old woman and her condition is stable.

Maharashtra on Saturday reported 8,912 fresh COVID-19 cases and 257 fatalities, taking the tally to 59,63,420 and the toll to 1,17,356, the state Health department said. Earlier on March 8, the state had recorded 8,744 cases, it said.

Of the 257 deaths, 193 had occurred in the last 48 hours while 64 in the last week. Another 425 fatalities were added to the state’s cumulative toll as part of the ongoing data reconciliation exercise, which increased the overall count by 682 compared to the previous day. With 10,373 patients getting discharged during the day, the tally of recoveries in Maharashtra reached 57,10,356, leaving the state with 1,32,597 active cases, the department said. News18