A NEW “Delta Plus” Covid-19 variant that is “more transmissible” than the original has been reported in India.
Sixteen cases of the variant that is a mutation of the Delta variant, have been recorded in the state of Maharashtra, health officials said.
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The Union Health Ministry on Tuesday described Delta Plus as “currently a variant of concern,” in a statement.
The new mutation was detected earlier this month but was not considered concerning reports India Today.
Dr VK Paul had said at the time “A variant of concern is one in which we have understood that there are adverse consequences for humanity by increase in transmissibility and severity. This is not known yet about the Delta plus variant.”
But the government confirmed on Tuesday that the new variant is “more transmissible” than the original and has urged the affected areas to take up immediate containment measures, enhance testing, tracking and vaccination.
India’s second wave of Covid-19 in April, had been described as the “world’s worst outbreak”, with people dying on the streets due to a collapsed health system and a lack of oxygen supplies.
On April 26, the country reported 350,000 new cases and over 2,800 deaths in one day.
Experts have warned India’s death toll could hit one million by July, in an “inevitable” third wave of Covid.
The strain is up to 60 percent more contagious than the Alpha (Kent) variant, according to Public Health England.
The North West remains the biggest hotspot for the virus with the 16 most infected areas of the country being focused in the region.
Blackburn with Darwen in Lancashire continues to have the highest rate, with 796 new cases in the seven days to June 17 – the equivalent of 531.7 cases per 100,000 people.
Public Health England reported a total of 806 people to be hospitalised with the Delta variant, as of June 14, an increase of 423 since last week.
Of these, 527 were unvaccinated, and only 84 of the 806 had received both doses.
Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said: “Cases are rising rapidly across the country and the Delta variant is now dominant.
“The increase is primarily in younger age groups, a large proportion of which were unvaccinated but are now being invited to receive the vaccine.”
On Tuesday, deaths in the UK jumped to their highest figure in six weeks and cases surged to 11,625 in the biggest jump since February.
Daily deaths rose by 27 – bringing the total number of Covid victims to 128,008.
Last week, there were ten deaths and 7,673 cases recorded by the government.
It comes as the rise in Covid-19 cases has forced Boris Johnson to delay the final stage of his lockdown roadmap by four weeks.
The PM is set to announce on Monday if the restrictions can be lifted early on June 5.
He is expected however to stick with his “terminus date” of July 19.
The PM’s spokesperson said: “Monday will be the day when we were deciding on the decision on that and we are closely monitoring the data, ahead of providing a full update.
“We will set out very clearly to the public, the rationale for the decision we’ve made.”