NEW DELHI: Four cases of the South African variant of the Covid-19 virus had been detected in India last month through its ongoing genomic surveillance initiative. The government on Tuesday announced that
The ICMR director general Balram Bhargava, during a press briefing by the Union Health Ministry, said that the South African variant of the coronavirus was detected in four people who came to the country from Africa in January.
“In India, the South African strain of Covid-19 has been detected in four returnees from South Africa. All travellers and their contacts were tested and quarantined,” he said, adding that the country has also detected the Brazilian strain of the virus in one person.
On the returnees detected with the South African variant, Bhargava said that one was from Angola, one from Tanzania and the remaining two were from South Africa.
In India, 187 cases of the UK variant of Covid-19 cases have also been found -- a maximum of which were reported in Delhi.
According to experts, there is no evidence that the South Africa variant causes more serious illness for the vast majority of people who become infected, but there are concerns it can spread more readily and vaccines may not work quite as well against it.
Some of the changes involve the virus's spike protein -- the part of the pathogen that gains the virus entry into human cells. It is also the part that vaccines are designed around, which is why scientists are concerned about these particular mutations.
The South African variant carries a mutation, named N501Y, that appears to make it more contagious or easy to spread, and another mutation, called E484K, is understood to be helping the virus dodge a person's immune system and may affect how well coronavirus vaccines work.