India Says Too Early to Judge Risk of Delta-Plus Covid Variant

Pedestrians walk along the sidewalk outside Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

India Says Too Early to Judge Risk of Delta-Plus Covid Variant

India has found 48 cases of the Delta-plus Covid-19 variant across 11 states, but authorities say it is too early to tell whether it poses a significant threat like the strain that drove the nation’s devastating second wave, swamping the health system and overwhelming crematoriums.

A mutation of the Delta variant that’s seen as 50% more transmissible than other strains, Delta-plus has been found mostly in the state of Maharashtra, home to the financial capital Mumbai, as well as Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh. The cases were found by sequencing 45,000 samples.

The spread of Delta-plus, which the government has listed as a variant of concern, was very localized, Balram Bhargava, director general of the Indian Council of Medical Research, said at a media briefing on Friday. Tests are being conducted to check the effectiveness of the vaccines available in India -- AstraZeneca’s Covishield and Bharat Biotech International Ltd.’s Covaxin -- against the variant, and the results are likely to come in the next 10 days, he said.

It is now present in 12 countries, including the U.S., U.K., Japan, Russia and China, he said.

“There are speculations regarding higher transmissibility and infectivity of the Delta-plus variant, but there is no definitive data to support this,” said Binay Panda, a professor of biotechnology at the New Delhi-based Jawaharlal Nehru University, adding more sequencing was urgently needed.

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