Across Maharashtra, 61.32 per cent of Covid-19 samples sent for genomic sequencing were found to be infected with the Delta variant of SARS-CoV2 virus while 19.28 per cent were infected with sub lineages of the variant.
According to a state health department report, as many as 18,386 Covid-19 samples underwent genomic sequencing from May till November 9 this year. Of these, 11,274 were infected with the Delta variant (B.1.617.2) while 3,544 were infected with sub lineages of Delta, including AY.4.2.
According to reports, AY.4.2 has been spreading steadily in the United Kingdom over the last few months. Under close scrutiny, it was designated as a variant under investigation by the UK Health Security Agency in October.
However, in its weekly bulletins, the Indian SARS-CoV2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) – a consortium of 28 national laboratories monitoring genomic variants in SARS-CoV2 – has said that the frequency of the AY.4.2 variant of Covid is low across the country.
It may be recalled that Delta variant, which was first detected in India in October last year, had led to the devastating second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, which peaked in April-May this year. “There is no significant genomic change in the virus and the sub lineages of the Delta variant are biologically similar. We are less likely to observe a major surge in cases,” Dr Pradeep Awate, state surveillance officer, told The Indian Express.
Till date, around 66.24 lakh persons in Maharashtra have been infected with Covid-19 while 1.40 lakh have succumbed to the infection. Presently, there are 11,943 active cases of Covid-19 infection in the state.
In Maharashtra, there are two modes of genomic sequencing. As part of INSACOG, samples are sent from sentinel surveillance centres to national laboratories such as National Institute of Virology, National Centre for Cell Science and Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, among others. The other mode is via an agreement between the state government and Council of Scientific and Industrial Research – Institute of Integrative and Genomic Biology (CSIR-IGIB), New Delhi to process 100 samples from each of the 35 districts of Maharashtra every month.
From May till November 9, of the 18,386 samples examined for genome sequencing, 15,996 were processed by CSIR-IGIB and 2,390 as part of INSACOG. “We have set up divisional-level rapid response teams. In case there is information about a variant of concern apart from Delta, then the team visits the patients, traces contacts, and takes a detailed medical and travel history. Along with percentage of positivity, vaccination status and severity of infection, the teams also assess whether the patients require oxygen or ventilator and whether there are cases of re-infection,” Dr Awate said. He said that unlike Europe, which has been seeing a rise in cases of the Delta variant, the population in Maharashtra has been exposed to the infection already. “It is less likely that we will observe a major surge in cases,” said Dr Awate even as he urged citizens to continue to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour.
Dr Subhash Salunkhe, member of the national Covid task force, said that the present situation seemed favourable as several in the country were infected with Delta variant already. “However, 55 per cent of the population is still not fully vaccinated in the country. People have become complacent and must understand that there is a need to continue to adopt Covid-appropriate behaviour. There are breakthrough infections post-vaccination and hence, we must not let down our guard,” Dr Salunkhe added.