22 cases of Delta Plus Covid-19 variant found in India, 16 from Maharashtra: Govt
New Delhi, Jun 22: Twenty-two cases of the Delta plus variant of the coronavirus have been detected in India, with 16 of them being reported from Maharashtra and the remaining from Madhya Pradesh and Kerala, the government said on Tuesday.
India is among the nine countries where the Delta plus mutation has been found so far, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said at a press briefing.
Besides India, the Delta plus variant has been found in the US, UK, Portugal, Switzerland, Japan, Poland, Nepal, China and Russia.
The Delta variant has been detected in 80 countries, he said.
Cases of the Delta plus variant have been detected in Maharashtra''s Ratnagiri and Jalgaon and parts of Kerala and Madhya Pradesh.
"Any variant''s transmissibility and virulence decides whether it is a variant of concern or interest. Delta variant is found in 80 countries around the world, including India and it is a variant of concern.
"Delta plus variant has been detected in nine countries including India. In India, 22 cases of Delta Plus variant have been found and it is in the category of variant of interest, (and) yet not a variant of concern," Bhushan said.
He said the Health Ministry has released an advisory on the kind of public health response that Maharashtra, MP and Kerala should initiate to address this issue which "presently looks fairly small in terms of number but we would not want this to assume significant proportions".
He further said that INSACOG has 28 laboratories and they have sequenced 45,000 samples, of which 22 cases of delta plus variant have been found.
"The labs of INSACOG bring this information to the notice of Health Ministry which then in timely and prompt manner indicates to the concerned states what are the activities that have to be initiated to curb the spread. The public health response is standardised for the variants," he said.
INSACOG, or Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics, was set up to conduct genome sequencing of the coronavirus.
Bhushan said, "Broadly speaking, both the Indian vaccines -- Covishield and Covaxin -- are effective against Delta variant but to what extent and what is the proportion of antibody titers they produce, that information we would very shortly share."
Speaking on the overall pandemic situation in the country, NITI Aayog Member (Health) V K Paul said there is a consistent improvement in the pandemic situation but stressed that people must continue to follow COVID-19-appropriate behaviour and avoid crowds and parties. Uptake of vaccination has to be increased, he said.
"The number of districts reporting more than 100 daily cases have shrunk to 135 from 531 (in the week ending May 20) which is reassuring and even with restrictions being eased we are able to maintain the declining pace.
"But with the restrictions being lifted our responsibility increases...it is in our hands to ensure that pandemic remains localised and suppressed," Paul said.
Bhushan said there has been an almost 90 per cent decline in India''s daily COVID-19 cases as compared to the highest peak reported on May 7.
Also a sharp decline in weekly positivity rate -- 84 per cent decrease has been noted since the highest reported weekly positivity of 21.4 per cent recorded between May 4 and 10.