Is Covid-19 second wave in India due to virus variants? No enough evidence to back this claim, says noted virologist

By: |
March 26, 2021 5:15 PM

According to the expert, there is no sufficient evidence to conclude that the new variants are responsible for the sharp rise in coronavirus infection since March.

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Not the new variants, but people stopping to adhere to Covid appropriate behaviour is the reason for the surge of cases in India, said virologist Shahid Jameel. According to the expert, there is no sufficient evidence to conclude that the new variants are responsible for the sharp rise in coronavirus infection since March.

As of Friday, March 26, 59,118 fresh cases were reported, in a day, the single highest jump this year. The active case-load now stands at 4-lakh cases again after three-and-half months of lul.

In an interview with PTI, Jameel said with the rollout of the Covid vaccine, a false sense of security is running among people who are not taking safety precautions thinking they will soon get vaccinated. But vaccines won’t work unless both the doses are administered, said the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar awardee researcher.

As of March 25, 8.1 million people of India were vaccinated with both the doses and only 3 per cent of the population has taken the first dose, which gives weak or almost no protection he added.

Nonetheless, the possibility of the mutant variant causing the surge in cases is possible even though there is not enough evidence to support this, Jameel noted.

The mortality rate on the other hand appears to be lower than the peak season last year in August and September, said Jameel currently the director of Trivedi School of Biosciences at Ashoka University. Reasoning further about the rise in Covid cases, Jameel said that all public and recreational places opening up has made people go back to normal caring less about the pandemic.

As for the ‘double mutant’ variant found in India, Jameel said epidemiological correlation is required to establish so. A double mutant variant happens when two mutations in the same virus take place and both within the receptor-binding domain of the spike protein, Jameel explained. Mutations are common but the mutations in the spike protein determine how these viruses will infect their hosts, Jameel explained.

The UK variant of coronavirus had 23 mutations, 8 of these in the Spike protein, the Brazil variant had 16b mutations and 10 are in spike proteins while the South African variant has nine variations of which six are in spike protein., Jameel informed.

Some of these mutations get ‘selected’ because they impart better functions of infectivity, evasion of immunity and ease of transmission from one receptor to another.

Talking about the effectiveness of the current vaccine Covaxin and Covishield, against double mutant viruses, he said they are yet to be tested to assert the results.

India has so far detected ‘double mutant’ variant of Covid-19 causing the virus in Maharashtra, Delhi and some other places in addition to three other UK, Brazil and South Africa Variant found in 18 states and union territories after genome sequencing of the samples. The Ministry, however, did not so far establish that these variants are behind the sudden surge of cases in some states.

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