The Union Health Ministry said that two Covid-19 variants have been detected in at least three states in India. According to figures, Maharashtra and Kerala have contributed over 50,000 cases or 75 per cent of the total caseload. According to the Health Ministry, Kerala reported 37.85 per cent of cases, while Maharashtra reported 36.87 per cent cases. However, it also mentioned that there was no evidence to show that they were responsible for the fresh wave of infections.
Here are a few frequently asked questions about the new Covid-19 variant:
Has India detected new variants of coronavirus?
Yes, on Tuesday, the Union Health Ministry said that two new variants of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) have been found in India – the N440K variant and the E484K variant.
Are the two new strains specific to India?
No, the variants are neither new nor Indian. According to News18, Director-General, ICMR, Dr Balram Bhargava said, "These two virus strains have been detected in other countries too and are not specific to India. Moreover, they have been found earlier in some states in India."
How many new strains of Covid-19 have been detected in India so far?
At least five. These include the N440K variant, E484K variant, and variants from UK, South Africa, Brazil.
Where were the two new variants found?
Maharashtra, Kerala and Telangana.
Is it responsible for the rise in the number of coronavirus cases?
As per the Union Health Ministry, there has been no evidence to show that they were responsible for the fresh wave of infections.
In India, how many people have been infected?
Dr VK Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog said, India has 194 people infected with the UK, South Africa and Brazil strains. Further, ICMR DG Dr Balram Bhargava said, "The E484Q strain was earlier detected in four sequences in Maharashtra as early as March and July last year. The N440K mutation has been reported on 13 different occasions between May and September 2020 in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Assam."
Here’s all we know about the N440K variant and E484K variant?
India is currently watching the behaviour of mutations and 3,500 strains have been reported so far. "When we are doing sequencing, we are looking for any abnormal shift in the virus character. We have been watching mutants. Today, based on the information and as analyzed and understood by a very eminent scientific advisory group of Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG), we would like to underline the fact that we do not see attribution of mutant strains to the upsurge of the infection being seen in some districts. But this is a work in progress. We will continue to watch the situation with full responsibility,” Paul said.
“The SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) was established in December end for laboratory and epidemiological surveillance of circulating strains of SARS-CoV-2 in the country," he added.
What’s the reason behind the variant name?
In layman’s terms, the name E484K is like map coordinates –484 is the exact location of the variant, the letter E is the amino acid and the letter K is the amino acid that it has mutated to.
What is the UK variant of coronavirus?
According to reports, the UK or Kent variant (B.1.1.7) is said to be up to 70 per cent more transmissible and may be associated with an increased risk of death compared to other variants. It has already been reported by Australia, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Japan, Lebanon and Singapore.
What is the South African variant of Covid-19?
First reported in December 2020, the South African variant (501Y.V2 or B.1.351) of coronavirus is different from the Covid-19 (SARS-Cov- 2) virus in many ways – Its spike protein enables the virus entry into a body. It is said to have high transmissibility and spreads quickly.
What does mutation mean?
A mutation refers to a change in the genetic sequence of the virus which occurs as a result of its reproduction. The virus spreads by attaching itself to a host cell and injecting its genetic material into the cell. However, when the host tries to fight this reproduction, the virus finds new ways to survive, thereby adapting and evolving.
What are the precautions we should take to be safe?
Follow the basics – Washing your hands, keeping your distance from other people and wearing a mask will help in preventing the spread of infection.