A meeting is underway at the Prime Minister’s Office to review the coronavirus situation in the country amid a surge in cases over the past few days, and amid concern that mutated versions of the virus – including those that may be more infectious – may be circulating in the country.
Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan is among those attending this meeting.
The spike in Covid numbers in some states comes as 240 new strains of the virus have emerged across the country; Dr Shahshank Joshi, a member of Maharashtra’s Covid Task Force, told NDTV this week that the new strains could be the reason for an increase in cases in that state.
Health Ministry sources have said that 800 to 900 samples from Maharashtra and Kerala – two of five states to have seen a surge in cases – had been sent for genome sequencing in the past month.
Samples for genome sequencing – to understand the complete genetics of the virus – have also been sought from Punjab (another state to see an increase in cases) and Bengaluru, where two apartment complexes have been declared “containment zones” and sealed in the past few days.
So far genome sequencing of nearly 6,000 samples have been completed.
While authorities are still not sure how many of these new cases (if any, at all) are from the new mutated strains of the virus, government officials have admitted India’s genome sequencing has been below the mark so far, and that this needs to change in the coming weeks.
India has, so far, reported fewer than 200 cases of the UK strain of the virus. The South African strain has been detected in four people and the Brazil variant in one.
There are around 1.47 lakh active coronavirus cases in the country, according to government data released this morning. The total number of cases reported since the pandemic began in China in December 2019 is now over 1.10 crore, with 1.56 lakh deaths linked to the virus.
Maharashtra and Kerala continue to be the worst-affected states and among a handful seeing a surge in new cases that has worried the centre. Maharashtra has reported over 5,200 new cases in 24 hours, while Kerala has detected over 2,200.