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COVID-19 Outbreak: New Coronavirus Strains In The Country Could Be More Dangerous, Says Dr Randeep Guleria, Director, AIIMS- Delhi

According to AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria, the new strain of SARS-CoV-2 found in Maharashtra could be more transmissible than the existing version strain already floating in the country and could cause re-infections

COVID-19 Outbreak: New Coronavirus Strains In The Country Could Be More Dangerous, Says Dr Randeep Guleria, Director, AIIMS- Delhi
Highlights
  • It is natural for a virus to mutate: Dr Guleria
  • New strains have emerged in the country: Maharashtra COVID Task Force
  • COVID-appropriate behaviour needs to be maintained all the time: Dr Guleria

New Delhi: According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), the country has been recording a spike in daily active cases of COVID-19 since February 18. On Monday (February 22), active coronavirus cases increased by 4,421 in 24 hours – a spike of three per cent – to cross the 1.5 lakh mark for the first time in 17 days and register the steepest overall increase since end-November. The spike in national numbers comes as five states – Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, report an increase in daily numbers, says the central government. The reason behind this spike could be new strains of mutated coronavirus that have been emerging across the country and almost 240 such variants have come into the view, says the Maharashtra COVID Task Force. So as witnessed in UK and other European countries is this a second wave of the pandemic for India?

Also Read: N440K And E484Q, Two New Variants Of Novel Coronavirus Detected In India: Health Ministry

Dr Randeep Guleria, Director, All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) in Delhi highlights that coronavirus, like all other viruses, has a tendency to mutate as it multiplies. While some mutations are inconsequential, some may make the virus more contagious or dangerous or both, he said. However, he also said that the negligence on part of people in following preventive measures like not wearing masks, washing hands and maintaining social distance, may also lead to a surge in cases.

In the last many months, we have seen that the coronavirus has been mutating and we have seen strains becoming very infectious like the ones that emerged in United Kingdom, South Africa and in Brazil. But I think the surge is also related to multiple factors including the COVID appropriate behaviour which has also come down. Because of this, we are seeing a spike in various places in the country. This is something we need to be concerned about and take aggressive actions so that we are able to contain it right now rather than having an increasing number of cases in the rest of the country, said Dr Guleria.

Talking about the rising cases in Amravati, Maharashtra and other districts where clusters of people are testing positive and the positivity rate (percentage of people who test positive out of all of the tests done) in these areas have gone up exponentially, Dr Guleria said,

Clusters of cases occur when people do not follow the preventive measures properly. If you are not wearing a mask or not maintaining physical distance or not washing hands regularly, then you will have a high risk of getting the infection. And if you are giving a chance to the virus to spread, it will cause clusters of cases.

Emphasizing the need for adopting COVID-19 norms in order to prevent the spread of new strains, Dr Guleria said,

I think we need to go back to the things we were doing during the early days of the pandemic- aggressive measures of testing, contact tracing and isolating infections so that the chain of transmission is broken. It is not being done as aggressively as it was being done in the past. We have to understand that the virus is going to change and we should not take things casually.

Also Read: COVID Antibodies Are Transferred From Pregnant Women To Their Babies

Explaining that such setbacks in the fight against the pandemic are expected Dr Guleria said that complacency should be avoided at all cost. He busted the myth of “herd immunity developing in the country” and asserted,

Even if you look at the data collected during sero-surveillance studies across the country, it clearly suggests that the number of people who have got the immunity across the country is still not enough to cause herd immunity. Only 20-25 per cent of the population in India has developed immunity against COVID-19, however, you need at least 80 per cent of people have the antibodies to say that we are reaching herd immunity.

Dr Guleria further explained that herd immunity should be given much importance because it is dependent upon the immunity developed against the original virus but when there are numerous mutations that have occurred in the virus, then the immune response will fall and thus the person who already has the antibodies gets reinfection.

We have to look for other strategies to defeat the pandemic rather than waiting for herd immunity, he said.

As one of the strategies, Dr Guleria recommends increasing genome sequencing of the coronavirus which is the process of studying the genetic make-up of the virus to identify mutations. He emphasised on having more data on virus genomes to be able to find what all strains of coronavirus are floating in different parts of the country. This data will not only help the policymakers and health authorities in making effective strategies to contain the transmission but will also provide vital insights for developing efficient vaccines that can cover the new variants, he said.

Also Read: ‘Casual And Careless’ Behaviour Of People Resulted In Rise In COVID-19 Cases: Indore Health Official

Immune Escape Mechanism Of New Strains Is A Cause Of Concern

According to Dr Guleria, new variants of coronavirus develop immune escape mechanism which helps the virus to bypass the immune response that the human body has already developed because of previous COVID-19 infection or vaccines. Because of this, the virus is able to cause reinfections despite the body having antibodies. He further said,

Data suggests that some of the vaccines may still be effective although the efficacy may come down. We need to be careful because more of the new strains may emerge when we start vaccinating more and more people which would cause it to mutate and try and develop immune escape mechanism.

Dr Guleria added that there is always a possibility of another wave of infection facing the country. He said,

We are at a good positing right now but if we have new strains that can cause reinfections, there is a chance of another wave of infections.

Also Read: COVID-19 Variant N440K Spreading More In Southern States: Centre For Cellular And Molecular Biology

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene

World

24,06,78,961Cases
20,23,40,977Active
3,34,39,331Recovered
48,98,653Deaths
Coronavirus has spread to 195 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 24,06,78,961 and 48,98,653 have died; 20,23,40,977 are active cases and 3,34,39,331 have recovered as on October 18, 2021 at 4:17 am.

India

3,40,81,315 13,596Cases
1,89,6946,152Active
3,34,39,331 19,582Recovered
4,52,290 166Deaths
In India, there are 3,40,81,315 confirmed cases including 4,52,290 deaths. The number of active cases is 1,89,694 and 3,34,39,331 have recovered as on October 18, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths
Maharashtra

65,91,697 1,715

32,230 994

64,19,678 2,680

1,39,789 29

Kerala

48,54,321 7,555

88,186 3,292

47,39,270 10,773

26,865 74

Karnataka

29,83,459 326

9,479 58

29,36,039 380

37,941 4

Tamil Nadu

26,87,092 1,218

14,814 208

26,36,379 1,411

35,899 15

Andhra Pradesh

20,60,472 432

6,034 159

20,40,131 586

14,307 5

Uttar Pradesh

17,10,028 9

119 10

16,87,011 19

22,898

West Bengal

15,80,530 624

7,421 24

15,54,132 634

18,977 14

Delhi

14,39,390 32

320 6

14,13,981 38

25,089

Odisha

10,35,077 443

4,542 68

10,22,250 508

8,285 3

Chhattisgarh

10,05,654 16

183 2

9,91,901 14

13,570

Rajasthan

9,54,390 2

42 2

9,45,394 4

8,954

Gujarat

8,26,290 10

207 6

8,15,997 16

10,086

Madhya Pradesh

7,92,684 5

84 12

7,82,077 17

10,523

Haryana

7,71,076 15

123 9

7,60,904 6

10,049

Bihar

7,26,026 5

48 4

7,16,317 1

9,661

Telangana

6,68,955 122

3,924 55

6,61,093 176

3,938 1

Assam

6,06,468 205

3,436 46

5,97,082 245

5,950 6

Punjab

6,02,035 27

227 8

5,85,264 16

16,544 3

Jharkhand

3,48,430 7

122 1

3,43,173 8

5,135

Uttarakhand

3,43,756 9

178 1

3,36,181 8

7,397

Jammu And Kashmir

3,31,062 95

843 12

3,25,793 107

4,426

Himachal Pradesh

2,21,437 131

1,303 5

2,16,414 125

3,720 1

Goa

1,77,522 60

604 6

1,73,572 62

3,346 4

Puducherry

1,27,396 52

585 13

1,24,961 64

1,850 1

Manipur

1,22,737 104

1,422 0

1,19,418 102

1,897 2

Mizoram

1,12,848 249

11,633 1,143

1,00,829 1,389

386 3

Tripura

84,321 16

104 4

83,401 12

816

Meghalaya

82,953 55

845 32

80,673 86

1,435 1

Chandigarh

65,302 3

25 3

64,457 6

820

Arunachal Pradesh

54,987 7

140 30

54,567 37

280

Sikkim

31,749 4

174 8

31,184 12

391

Nagaland

31,611 40

248 12

30,689 28

674

Ladakh

20,878 2

36 10

20,634 12

208

Dadra And Nagar Haveli

10,676 1

4 1

10,668

4

Lakshadweep

10,365

0 0

10,314

51

Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,641

9 0

7,503

129

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