Delta Plus: India issues alert over new Covid 'variant of concern'

23 June 2021, 00:38

India has reported cases of a new Delta Plus Covid variant of concern
India has reported cases of a new Delta Plus Covid variant of concern. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

India has issued an alert over a new variant of concern called Delta Plus that is believed to be more transmissible than the original Delta Covid strain.

The country's health ministry said 16 cases of the variant - a mutation of B.1.617.2, which was first detected in India - were found in the state of Maharashtra on Tuesday.

Federal health secretary Rajesh Bhushan told a news conference that Delta Plus is more transmissible than the original Delta Covid-19 strain.

The health ministry also warned it could be less susceptible to vaccines and that it may be better at binding to receptors on people's lungs.

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State officials have been urged to increase testing and local vaccination drives in light of the emergence of Delta Plus.

India's health ministry also alerted the states of Kerala and Madhya Pradesh to cases of the new variant being found in some of their districts.

It warned Delta Plus has the following characteristics:

  • "Increased transmissibility"
  • "Stronger binding to receptors of lung cells"
  • "Potential reduction in monoclonal antibody response"

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Although the ministry advised the three states to keep Covid restrictions "broadly... the same as have been implemented by them earlier", it also urged officials to introduce "more focused and effective measures", such as immediate containment in the affected districts, the prevention of large crowds, widespread testing and priority vaccinations.

Further research will be carried out by the health ministry so that more comprehensive guidance can be issued to the states.

According to Public Health England (PHE), the original Delta variant is up to 60 per cent more contagious than the Alpha variant first detected in Kent.

Delta is now the most prominent variant in Britain, making up more than 99 per cent of the country's infections.

On Monday, India administered jabs to a record 8.6 million people as it began handing out free doses to all adults.

However, experts warned the country's vaccine rollout would be unable to continue at such a pace and Monday's surge could affect numbers in the coming days.

Chandrakant Lahariya, an expert in public policy and health systems, told Reuters: “This is clearly not sustainable.

“With such one-day drives, many states have consumed most of their current vaccine stocks, which will affect the vaccination in days to follow.”