The Union Health Ministry on Wednesday allayed fears over the new ‘double mutant’ variant of the coronavirus that was detected in the country and said that there is no evidence that this variant is linked to the surge in cases. The ministry also said that there is no evidence yet to show that the recent surge in COVID-19 cases is due to new variants that have been detected abroad and found in India. It should be noted that the occurrence of mutations is natural in viruses, and according to experts, coronaviruses are the slowest mutating viruses.
“Coronavirus mutations are natural,” said NITI Aayog’s VK Paul at the weekly press briefing that was held on Wednesday, and asked people not to panic. The health ministry also said that no new symptoms were caused by coronavirus variants in India.
The Union government had issued a statement earlier on Wednesday saying that it has detected a new ‘double variant’ of the coronavirus, as well as 771 variants of concern in 18 states of India, including Maharashtra, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Among the 771 samples where variants were identified, 736 were positive for viruses detected in the United Kingdom (B.1.1.7), four samples were positive for viruses detected in South African (B.1.351), and one sample was found positive for viruses detected in Brazilian (P.1), the government said.
Rajesh Bhushan, secretary in the Health Ministry expressed concern over the number of cases in two states — Maharashtra and Punjab — which have shown a recent surge in new cases. Maharashtra reported the highest — 28,699 cases — in the last 24 hours, followed by Punjab with 2,254 cases. Nine of the ten districts which currently have the highest number of active COVID-19 cases are in Maharashtra (Pune, Nagpur, Mumbai, Thane, Nashik, Aurangabad, Nanded, Jalgaon and Akola) and one (Bengaluru) is in Karnataka.
Addressing the media, Indian Council of Medical Research's Director General Balram Bhargav stressed the importance of testing, wearing masks, and vaccinating. The Health Ministry said that 5,08,41,286 coronavirus vaccine doses have been administered in India till 10 am on Wednesday. The Health Ministry also allayed fears over reports of blood clots being reported in recipients who take AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine. Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII), has tied up with AstraZeneca to manufacture Covishield in India, and the Health Ministry has said that there is no risk of blood-clotting related complications. “This is not a problem in India. No signal whatsoever for this concern,” VK Paul said.