India detects ‘double mutant’ covid variant as daily cases touch year’s high

New Delhi, Mar 24 (efe-epa).- India Wednesday said it had detected a new “double mutant” variant of the coronavirus, as the second Covid-19 wave further tightened its grip on the country with the highest single-day tally of new cases and deaths this year.

The federal home ministry said it was yet to establish a direct relationship between the rapid increase in cases across the country and the new variant, where two mutations have taken place simultaneously.

“Genomic sequencing and epidemiological studies are continuing to further analyze the situation,” the statement said, adding that it was unknown if the variant was more infectious than earlier strains.

The ministry said the SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG), a group of 10 national laboratories, carried out the genomic sequencing on the latest samples from Maharashtra, the center of the second wave.

The health ministry said the analysis has revealed that compared to December 2020, the mutations in the virus do not match previously cataloged “variants of concern.”

The country has already reported several cases of variants detected in Britain, South Africa, and Brazil.

As the country battles the surge in the daily new case, health authorities have administered 50 million Covid-19 vaccine doses, crossing a key milestone in its immunization drive that began mid-January.

A federal health ministry spokesperson, in a statement, said 50.8 million vaccine doses were administered through more than 823,000 sessions.

These include over 8.1 million second doses given to healthcare and frontline workers.

“India has crossed a significant milestone in the fight against the global pandemic. The cumulative number of Covid-19 vaccine doses administered in the country has crossed five crore (50 million),” the spokesperson said.

The ambitious vaccination drive tipped to be the world’s largest will inoculate 300 million people in two phases.

The first phase of 30 million doses started with healthcare workers on Jan.16 followed by frontline workers two weeks later.

The second-phase targeted above 60 and also 45 above with comorbidities covering 270 million people.

The third-phase will open for people above 45 from Apr.1. in the past few weeks.

However, amid the vaccination drive marred by public skepticism and apathy, the country is battling its second Covid-19 wave.

A few weeks ago, the virus was seemingly retreating from the second-most populous country.

But infections have been rising nearly to more than 45,000 daily from fewer than 10,000 in February.

The health authorities recorded 47,262 positive cases in the last 24 hours from Tuesday, taking the cumulative caseload in India to 11.73 million, said the Union health ministry on Wednesday.

It is the biggest spike in daily cases in nearly 19 weeks after the third worst-hit nation by the coronavirus had recorded over 47,000 infections in early November.

Fatalities due to the virus have also shot up in recent weeks. Some 275 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours, from a low of 76 on Mar.8

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