Indian health authorities say they are monitoring a new variant of coronavirus cases – termed “Delta Plus” – as the Russian capital announces the return of restrictions amid a rise in COVID-19 cases.
Officials in New Delhi said on Tuesday 22 cases of the new Delta Plus variant of SARS-Cov-2 had been found in the country so far.
The spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant, first detected in India, is held largely responsible for the country’s devastating second wave of the pandemic.
As India emerges on the other side of the surge, attention has begun to shift to Delta Plus, a version that is closely related to the far more widespread Delta strain.
Delta Plus has been found in eight other countries besides India, federal health secretary Rajesh Bhushan said at a weekly briefing, citing the World Health Organisation.
Based upon what is currently known about its transmissibility and virulence, Delta Plus is being seen by India as a variant of interest (VOI) and not the more serious variant of concern (VOC) like Delta.
“Presently the outbreaks look small in terms of numbers but we would not want it to assume more significance,” Bhushan said.
Asked about some scientists’ observations that the Delta Plus variant may be able to evade antibodies from vaccinations or infections, Bhushan said studies were currently taking place to correlate clinical data and the results would be shared soon.
Both vaccines being used in India – the AstraZeneca jab being manufactured under the Covishield name and the indigenously developed Covaxin – were effective against the Delta variants, Bhushan said.
“But to what proportion is being studied and we will share soon,” he said.
Most of the 22 Delta Plus cases were reported from Maharashtra, which has been the epicentre of India’s pandemic, and a few from Kerala and Madhya Pradesh, Bhushan said.
India has the second-largest caseload of COVID-19 in the world at about 29.99 million and has reported 389,302 deaths.
Coronavirus restrictions are returning to the Russian capital due to a sharp rise in case counts, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin announced on his blog on Tuesday.
Starting on Monday, people will need proof of either successful recuperation from a coronavirus infection or a negative result after a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test – not a quick nasal swab – if they want to frequent the city’s bars and restaurants.
The plan builds on an “experiment” the mayor had only just announced regarding access to eateries and pubs.
Additionally, public events will be limited to 500 people, down from the 1000 allowed at the moment. “(Euro 2020) Fan zones and dance floors have to close,” Sobyanin wrote.
On Tuesday, Moscow authorities reported 6555 new cases in the city during the last 24 hours.
The city also recorded 86 deaths due to the virus, the most coronavirus victims in one day since the pandemic struck in early 2020.
“There are more than 14,000 seriously ill in hospital,” Sobyanin wrote.
Russia has approved four domestically made vaccines but by June 2, only 18 million of the 144-million population had received at least one dose of a vaccine.
The authorities are trying to coax and compel people to get the shot, offering those who do the chance to win new cars and flats while threatening others who don’t with loss of earnings and dismissal.
Sobyanin said that more than 2 million Moscow residents had now received at least one vaccine dose and that the number of people who have registered to get a shot has increased significantly.