The Union health ministry on Friday requested eight states and union territories to impose immediate restrictions including preventing gatherings, conducting widespread testing as well as boosting vaccine coverage on a priority basis in regions where the Delta Plus variation of coronavirus has been located. The manoeuvres were advised by Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan in a letter to Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Gujarat and Haryana.
He also requested them to assure that sufficient samples of individuals who probe positive for Covid-19 are urgently sent to the designated laboratories of Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia (INSACOG) so that clinical epidemiological correlations can be settled. Bhushan told the Delta Plus variant of SARS-CoV-2 has been discovered in Tirupati district in Andhra Pradesh, Surat in Gujarat, Faridabad in Haryana, Katra in Jammu and Kashmir, Bikaner in Rajasthan, Patiala and Ludhiana in Punjab, Mysore in Karnataka, Chennai, Madurai and Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu.
“You are aware that INSACOG is a group of laboratories for whole genome sequencing in the framework of the Covid-19 pandemic. INSACOG is assigned with not just the whole genome sequencing but also giving timely reports on appropriate public health responses in specific geographies where variations have been spotted. “It has been affirmed by INSACOG that the Delta Plus variant, which is now a variant of concern (VOC), has the following features— expanded transmissibility, stronger binding to receptors of lung cells and potential shrinkage in monoclonal antibody response,” he said.
Bhushan emphasised the public health response in this case, while broadly unchanged, has to become more centralized and rigorous. “Thus, you are urged to impose immediate restrictions in these regions and clusters including preventing gatherings and blending of people, (conducting) widespread trials, prompt (contact) tracing as well as (increasing) vaccine assurance on a priority basis.
“You are also urged to affirm that sufficient samples of positive persons are sent to the assigned laboratories of INSACOG urgently so that the clinical epidemiological correlations can be settled,” he said. Previously, the Centre said 51 cases of the Delta Plus variation of coronavirus have been discovered in 45,000 samples sequenced till now in the country with Maharashtra detailing the maximum number of 22.
It stressed there are still very restricted cases of this variant and it cannot be concluded that it is indicating an upward trend. Sujeet Singh, director of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), told 22 cases of the Delta Plus variant has been located in Maharashtra, succeeded by nine in Tamil Nadu, seven in Madhya Pradesh, three in Kerala, two each in Punjab and Gujarat, and one each in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana and Karnataka.