COVID: Centre warns of 'inevitable' third wave, says time-frame for it can not be predicted

In a press briefing by the Ministry of Health Affairs on Wednesday, officials said the long COVID wave of such "ferocity" that the country was experiencing currently "was not predicted".
Thousands of people flocked the shops in Govindappa Nayakar Street in Broadway  on Wednesday ahead of the lockdown from Thursday. (Photo | Ashwin Prasath)
Thousands of people flocked the shops in Govindappa Nayakar Street in Broadway on Wednesday ahead of the lockdown from Thursday. (Photo | Ashwin Prasath)

NEW DELHI: The government on Wednesday came up with a grim warning that a third Covid19 wave in India may be inevitable while also admitting for the first time that Indian lineage of SARS CoV 2, B.1.617 may be fueling the massive surge in cases in several states.

“A phase three is inevitable, given the higher levels of circulating virus but it is not clear on what time scale this phase three will occur. We should prepare for new waves,” said K Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Advisor to the Centre said on Wednesday.

He added that the severity of the Covid-19 disease could be more or less, in the coming times.

“Variants are transmitted the same as the original strain. It doesn't have properties of new kinds of transmission. It infects humans in a manner that makes it more transmissible as it gains entry, makes more copies and goes on, same as original," Raghavan added.

Data shared in the briefing, for the first time, marked the B.1.617 variant of SARS CoV 2, popularly known as double mutant as a “variant of concern”.

As per the figures, samples collected from at least 18 states—which have undergone genomic surveillance-- have shown presence of this variant with a large number of samples from Delhi, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana apart from Maharashtra where the variant was first detected.  

This variant with --E484Q and L452R together—had first been identified in February and its spread has been growing ever since, overtaking several other variants-- including N440K, first identified in Andhra Pradesh and B.1.618, first detected in West Bengal, which suggests that it may be more transmissible.

Data from other countries suggest that while E484Q can escape antibody neutralisation, L452R is known to increase infectivity.

Sujeet Kumar Singh, director of the National Centre for Disease Control while sharing the data on the presence of Covid-19 mutations in the country however said that an exercise was still underway to establish the rise of this variant with the disease progression in the country.

Incidentally, this Indian strain, the World Health Organisation has said, has been detected in at least 17 countries including the UK, US and Singapore.

Sources said that following a request by the UK government, India has agreed to send samples of the B.1.617 variant there to examine the efficacy of available Covid-19 vaccines against it.  

Renu Swarup, secretary, department of biotechnology meanwhile said that the initial data has shown that Covid-19 vaccines in India effectively neutralise the variants in circulation in the country, more work is underway to fully establish this.

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