UK variant in Punjab may be a threat

New Delhi

The UK variant of coronavirus found in Punjab is a potential threat due to its efficiency in spreading, while the double mutant found in Maharashtra is a matter of concern, but not a cause to create panic, suggested CSIR-CCMB Director Rakesh Mishra.

Mishra said the UK variant has contributed to the surge in cases in Punjab.

"Somebody had travelled from the UK to Punjab, possibly in a group, and then people from this group would have gone to several places in Punjab, which has contributed to the surge," said Mishra.

The double mutant found in Maharashtra in 15-20 per cent Covid samples sent for genome sequencing is a combination of two mutations -- E484Q and L452R -- the CSIR-CCMB Director said.

The L452R was found in patients in California, where experts believed that it led to higher spread of Covid-19 as it was a more infectious strain, while the E484Q has been found in Maharashtra.

Also, the E484Q shares similarities with the variants found in Brazil and South Africa and it has resistance to vaccines from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca.

­­­­­­­He clarified that, for example, if double mutant is found in 50 per cent of cases in some pockets, then what is the cause for the other 50 per cent cases in the same pockets?

"At this stage, we cannot link double mutant to the surge in cases in Maharashtra," said Mishra.

He added that both vaccines, AstraZeneca and Covaxin, are working well against the Punjab variant and the double mutant found in Maharashtra.

No let-up in Coronavirus assault in India

India is experiencing a worsening Coronavirus pandemic as it recorded peaks in the number of cases, deaths and active cases in the past 24 hours ending at 8 am on Saturday. It recorded a massive surge of 89,019 new cases in the last 24 hours, pushing the country's total case load to 1,23,91,129 while the active Covid-19 cases have crossed the 6.5 lakh mark, according to the Health Ministry statistics. Maharashtra recorded 47,827 new cases in 24 hours.

India also witnessed on Saturday a grim record of the most fatalities due to Covid-19 in a single day in 2021 as it soared to 714.

The overall death toll from the deadly infection stood at 1,64,110. Five most affected states are Maharashtra (2,904,076), Kerala (1,124,584), Karnataka (997,004), Andhra Pradesh (901,989), Tamil Nadu (886,673).

71 unreserved trains from Monday: The Indian Railways will start 71 unreserved mail and express trains from Monday, as per a tweet by Railway Minister Piyush Goyal. He said the trains will ensure safe and comfortable journey for the passengers. A weekly Rajdhani Superfast Special train is also being introduced from Sunday between Hazrat Nizamuddin (Delhi) and Secunderabad.

Candidates flout norms at panchayat poll nominations

Undaunted by the second surge of coronavirus reaching its peak in the state, a large number of candidates and their supporters flouted Covid-19 protocol and guidelines when the polling process for the four-phased panchayat polls got underway for filing nomination for the first phase from Saturday.

Polling for the first is scheduled on April 15. Though State Election Commission has issued ­­guidelines, at many places, candidates and their supporters took out processions while filing nomination papers on the opening day without maintaining social distancing and wearing masks.­­ The returning officers, however, did not allow crowds to enter their offices for filing nominations. Only the candidate and one supporter was allowed to enter after sanitising hands and wearing masks. Nominations were filed in 18 districts on Saturday.

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