‘Variant Of Concern’

‘Delta Plus’ variant of the coronavirus, scientifically classified as the AY.1, is spreading rapidly and setting alarm bells ringing.

Jammu and Kashmir has one confirmed case so far and its presence being restricted to the single individual was all more unlikely for varied reasons.

The cases across the country are also rising and already around 85 stand confirmed. Also, the Union Health Ministry has already declared that the variant is of “concern” and advised States and UTs to redouble containment and testing efforts.

Jammu and Kashmir lacks a coronavirus genome surveillance system and like other parts of India has already seen the damaging implications of its inadequacy. If the government knew a more transmissible and strong virus had taken hold, restrictions and increased testing could have been implemented in advance of the second wave.

Taking steps early has been the most important pandemic mitigation strategies and the Governments across India have already learned this lesson the hard way.

In the right direction, the Chief Secretary of J&K has directed the Health & Medical Education Department to install certified laboratories in J&K for genome sequencing of Covid samples for early detection of mutant virus strains.

The virulence of the Delta variant, first detected in India and later declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a ‘variant of concern’, is proving to be a major cause of concern. It is the major reason behind the surge in Covid-19 cases in India during the second wave. This variant is said to be highly transmissible, spreading nearly 60% faster than the Alpha variant detected first in the UK.

People and government also need to be particularly sensitive to trends in outbreaks, and make sure there was no let-up in covid-19 appropriate behavior.

Rightly also, the chief secretary has asked the department to undertake an extensive information Education & Communication (IEC) campaign to promote Covid appropriate behavior and healthy habits to contain the pandemic.

Also, the Covid-19 vaccines made by Pfizer and AstraZeneca have been found to offer high protection of more than 90% against hospitalisation from the Delta variant. Researchers at Pune’s Indian Council of Medical Research-National Institute of Virology concluded that Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin is also effective in neutralising the particular variant. This makes vaccination all more important and ought to be ensured with a reasonable haste.

It is also imperative to ensure the multi-sectoral response based on test-track-treat besides vaccination to prevent subsequent waves of infection especially in the wake of Delta and Delta Plus mutant strains of the virus.

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