Twenty-one cases of the ‘Delta plus’ variant of COVID-19, considered highly infectious, have been found in Maharashtra so far, state Health Minister Rajesh Tope has said. The highest nine cases were reported in Ratnagiri, followed by seven in Jalgaon, two in Mumbai, and one case each in Palghar, Thane and Sindhudurg districts, Tope told reporters on Monday.
He said 7,500 samples from different parts of the state were collected and sent for laboratory testing. These samples were collected since May 15 and their genome sequencing was done, the minister said.
Genome sequencing allows the tracking of small mutations in SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19, meaning chains of transmission can be identified. The scientific process also assists in identifying missing links in the chain of transmission. Tope said complete information about the people detected with the ‘Delta plus’ variant is being sought, including their travel history, whether they were vaccinated or not, and if they were reinfected.
Their contacts are being traced and tested, the minister said, adding that information on the mutation of Delta and Delta plus variants is also being scrutinised. Last week, the Maharashtra health department made a presentation where it said the newly identified Delta plus’ variant may trigger a third wave of the pandemic in the state.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, state COVID-19 task force members and health department officials had attended the presentation. The new Delta plus variant has been formed due to a mutation in the Delta or B.1.617.2 variant, first identified in India and one of the drivers of the deadly second wave. Though there is no indication yet of the severity of the disease due to the new variant, Delta plus is resistant to the monoclonal antibody cocktail treatment for COVID-19 recently authorised in India.
On Monday, Maharashtra reported 6,270 new coronavirus cases, a four-month low daily count, taking its COVID-19 tally to 59,79,051, while 94 deaths pushed the toll to 1,18,313, as per the state health department.