For the past one week, the increase in Covid-19 cases in India especially in states of Maharashtra, Punjab, Kerala, Chhattisgarh and Tamil Nadu, is raising concerns about whether the spurt in new cases is linked to new variants of SARS-CoV-2.
But as per the reports spike in cases may be attributed to super spreader events more than mutations of the virus.
Experts such as Dr V Ravi, Retired Professor of Neurobiology at NIMHAN and Nodal Officer for Genomic Confirmation of SARS-CoV-2, Government of Karnataka, told Moneycontrol there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that there is a new variant in Maharashtra, which is causing a spike in cases. He says that the latest upsurge is triggered by super spreading events that have led to community spill over and the subsequent lack of testing, tracking and tracing.
Viruses mutate all the time, more so for viruses that contain RNA as their genetic material like coronavirus. Most mutations are so small that they don't significantly affect how the virus works, or sometimes make the virus weaker.
Covid-19 guidelines will remain in force till March 31
Amid a spurt in the coronavirus cases in India, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said the existing Covid-19 guidelines will remain in force till March 31. In a statement, the home ministry said while there has been a substantial decline in the active and new coronavirus cases, there is a need to maintain surveillance, containment, and caution so as to fully overcome the pandemic.
Two new mutant variants of the SAR-CoV-2 virus, N440K and E484Q, have been detected in Maharashtra and some other states. The government had earlier clarified that the current upsurge of Covid-19 cases in Maharashtra cannot be attributed to these two strains.
The states and union territories have also been advised to speed up the vaccination of the target population so as to break the chain of transmission and overcome the pandemic.