A new variant of concern is here. Don’t repeat mistakes
A new variant of concern is here. Don’t repeat mistakes: The variant in question is part of the lineage of the Delta variant, which is slowly turning out to be significantly more dangerous than the virus that first spread out of Wuhan
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The health ministry announced on Tuesday that a variant of the Sars-Cov-2, found at present in a small number of people, is of concern and advised states to redouble containment and testing efforts. The variant in question is part of the lineage of the Delta variant, which is slowly turning out to be significantly more dangerous than the virus that first spread out of Wuhan. Informally called the Delta Plus and scientifically classified as the AY.1, the further evolution of the Delta variant includes a mutation (K417N) that separately has shown attributes that could hamper the efficacy of vaccines. The announcement came within hours of the Union health secretary first suggesting the variant may not have turned into a major cause for concern yet.
It was only a few months ago when India discovered the damaging implications of an inadequate coronavirus genome surveillance system. If states knew a more transmissible and virulent virus had taken hold, lockdowns and surge testing could have been implemented weeks in advance of the second wave. India learned this lesson the hard way, but it is still a lesson that is fresh in collective memory. Taking steps early is perhaps one of the most important pandemic mitigation strategies.
The alarm raised on Tuesday is only the first in several steps India will now need to take. The scientific establishment must focus on improving genome sequencing efforts, which involves vast technical and logistical challenges. Citizens and grassroots government staff will need to be particularly sensitive to trends in outbreaks, and make sure there is no let-up in Covid-safe practices. There must be a degree of restrictions to deter the maddening crowds witnessed in recent days in urban centres. And there must be no complacency or premature celebration till universal vaccination is achieved.