Amid concerns of the Delta plus Covid variant spreading across India, the Centre on Friday directed eight states and Union Territories to increase vaccine coverage on apriority basis in districts where the new variant has been detected.
The Union health ministry has asked Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Gujarat and Haryana to ramp up containment measures and to prevent large gatherings to ensure that the new variant doesn’t spread.
Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan in a letter to these states, also urged authorities to make sure that adequate Covid test samples are sent to the designated laboratories of Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia (INSACOG) so that clinical epidemiological correlations can be established.
Bhushan said the Delta Plus variant of SARS-CoV-2 has been detected in Tirupati district in Andhra Pradesh, Surat in Gujarat, Faridabad in Haryana, Katra in Jammu and Kashmir, Bikaner in Rajasthan, Patiala and Ludhiana in Punjab, Mysuru in Karnataka, Chennai, Madurai and Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu.
"You are aware that INSACOG is a consortium of laboratories for whole genome sequencing in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. INSACOG is tasked with not just the whole genome sequencing but also giving timely inputs on appropriate public health response in specific geographies where variants have been found.
"It has been intimated by INSACOG that the Delta Plus variant, which is currently a variant of concern (VOC), has the following characteristics -- increased transmissibility, stronger binding to receptors of lung cells and potential reduction in monoclonal antibody response," he said.
Bhushan stressed the public health response in this case, while broadly remaining the same, has to become more focused and stringent.
"Thus, you are requested to take up immediate containment measures in these districts and clusters including preventing crowds and intermingling of people, (conducting) widespread testing, prompt (contact) tracing as well as (increasing) vaccine coverage on a priority basis.
"You are also requested to ensure that adequate samples of positive persons are sent to the designated laboratories of INSACOG promptly so that the clinical epidemiological correlations can be established," he said.
Earlier in the day, the Centre said 51 cases of the Delta Plus variant of coronavirus have been found in 45,000 samples sequenced so far in the country with Maharashtra reporting the highest number of 22.
It emphasised there are still very limited cases of this mutation and it cannot be inferred that it is showing an upward trend.
Sujeet Singh, director of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), said 22 cases of the Delta Plus variant has been found in Maharashtra, followed by nine in Tamil Nadu, seven in Madhya Pradesh, three in Kerala, two each in Punjab and Gujarat, and one each in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana and Karnataka.
(With PTI inputs)