Owing to the threat of the more virulent Delta Plus variant, the government is likely to go back to uniform restrictions across the states instead of the current policy of unlocking, which is based on the availability of oxygenated beds and the test positivity rate. The state Cabinet was shown a presentation on the new variant and since then they have strained their guns in prevention.
There are several new variants, more being found every day. Most of them are said to be the more infectious, meaning each patient tends to infect more people, which leads to more cases, which leads to more deaths even if the individual outcomes are no worse than garden variety original Chinese COVID. These particular variants spread quicker so more people are getting infected.
However, no one is sure if this increase in exposure is being measured and reported to interested health organizations, scientists and researchers. We are still in the dark about so many aspects of this virus. However, currently, there is no evidence to suggest that the new strain causes severe illness. Studies suggest that there have been instances in the past where the viruses have mutated to strains that may spread faster but resulted in milder illness. We have to wait and look at patient outcomes linked with the new strains to understand its implications better.
The mortality of the new variant is not different to the old variant. But the new variant is more infectious. And that means the measures used to contain the old variant are not sufficient to contain the new variant. It’ll not be sufficient to close some shops and require people to wear masks all the time – be prepared for hard lockdowns in the near future.
Mumbai hasn’t upgraded to the next level of unlocking despite qualifying for it, but other places are back to normal with people giving utter disregard to Covid-19 appropriate behaviour. So far, 21 cases of the new variant have been found across seven districts, with coastal Ratnagiri topping the list. The cabinet expressed serious concern when it was told that Delta Plus escapes antibodies, thus making vaccinated people vulnerable. Re-infection can also occur despite antibodies that the recovered Covid-19 patient may have developed.
The focus has now shifted to the unlock management, which has lifted curbs in several districts based on prescribed parameters and weekly reviews. The Centre has asked the state to be extra vigilant since the variant spreads faster and affects people more than the Delta variant. The Centre is being informed about the development on a regular basis.
The Cabinet was also informed about the current status of the pandemic in general on Wednesday. Delta Plus is also the reason for reducing next month’s Monsoon legislative session to two days from a full-length affair.
Government told the media, Delta is highly dangerous and escapes antibodies. Fortunately, none of the Delta Plus patients in Maharashtra died because of infection. According to the Maharashtra health minister, the index cases are under close watch though most of them have been discharged. The active cases are in isolation and being observed carefully. Their travel history and vaccination record are noted and re-infection, if any, is also reported.
The contacts – both high and low risk – have been traced or are being traced. Their samples will also be sent for the whole genomic sequencing. It was the whole genomic sequencing that the consortium of laboratories participated in and helped find the Delta Plus variant. A hundred samples from each district were sent for sequencing.
About the overall pandemic situation, the minister said the state has plateaued at 8,000 cases per day from the peak of 65,000, but it isn’t very encouraging because the number still isn’t reducing as expected. “We’re at the 15th place in per million cases. The daily 8,000 number has been constant for the past week. The number should dip further.
The Cabinet has decided to tell the State Election Commission that it would be unable to provide manpower for holding the by-elections of the local self-government bodies in which the Other Backward Class (OBC) seats have been scrapped by the apex court. The SC had told the SEC to conduct elections. The dates in July have been announced. But the OBCs are up in arms against the decision and the government’s inaction in presenting the case in the court. Protests have been organised and the BJP met the Governor to seek his intervention. The Cabinet discussed the issue and as a feasible solution, decided to deny SEC manpower in view of the pandemic.