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Record COVID cases in India could be linked to ‘double mutant’ virus strain

Record COVID cases in India could be linked to ‘double mutant’ virus strain

dpa
New Delhi
India logged another grim global record of 412,262 Covid-19 cases on Thursday as officials said a “double mutant variant” could be linked to the deadly second wave sweeping across various states.
India registered 3,980 Covid-19 deaths in the past 24 hours, making it the deadliest day in the country since the pandemic began and raising the death toll to 230,168, data from the government showed.
India became the first country to cross 400,000 daily cases on Saturday. It has seen more than 300,000 cases daily over the past fortnight, taking its caseload past 21 million, second only to the United States.
However, experts say the actual figures may be 5-10 times higher due to low-testing rates and many people dying at home, particularly in rural areas.
Hospitals in cities including Bengaluru are scrabbling for beds and oxygen as they desperately fight the surge in infections, while morgues and crematoriums struggle to deal with a continuous flow of bodies.
Many people have died in ambulances and car parks waiting for a bed or oxygen.
Although the capital Delhi has been receiving supplies of more medical oxygen, including via ‘Oxygen Express’ trains, shortages of the gas have sparked distress calls from hospitals in other cities.
The government’s top scientific adviser, K Vijay Raghavan, warned that a third Covid-19 wave was inevitable and admitted for the first time that a “double-mutant” variant - when two mutations come together in the same virus strain - could be fuelling the infection surge.
“A phase three is inevitable, given the high levels of the circulating virus,” Raghavan said at a briefing on Wednesday evening.
“But it is not clear on what time scale this will occur. We should prepare for a new wave.” He added the spread of the highly infectious British variant had slowed. Vaccines may need to be updated to tackle the new strains that were spreading fast, Raghavan added.
“Unless the world steps up and helps India now, there will be reverbations across the region and the world in terms of virus-related deaths, virus mutations and supply delays,” UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore said earlier.
Lockdowns ordered in several states have failed to bring down infection rates so far. The worst-hit state of Maharashtra is continuing to see high number of infections with 57,000 new cases. At the same time, the southern states of Karnataka and Kerala saw record 50,000 and 41,000 infections respectively.
Cases were spreading in India’s rural areas. A spike in infections have been reported from villages in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, where between 12-14 million migrant workers have returned in recent weeks, broadcaster NDTV reported.
These are mostly people who have been working in metropolitan centres like Delhi and Bombay that have declared lockdowns, meaning they cannot earn money, and they return home.
India has become a global epicentre of Covid-19, accounting for 46 per cent of global cases and 25 per cent of global deaths reported in the past week, the World Health Organization said in its weekly epidemiological update.
International aid has been pouring in from over 40 countries and more than 300 tonnes of medical supplies have been flown over the past few days. However, domestic media have criticised a lack of transparency and delays in distributing the supplies to states.
India’s vaccination drive has also slowed down due to shortages of jabs and wastages, with just 1.9 million inoculations in the past 24 hours.
Less than 2 percent of the country’s more than 1.3 billion inhabitants have been fully vaccinated since the inoculation drive began in January. India needs to vaccinate more than 5 million people every day if it is to get a grip on the pandemic, experts have said.

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