Coronavirus in Maharashtra: No direct relation between surge in COVID-19 cases, mutant strains in the state, says ICMR
(Photo by Ting Shen/Xinhua)

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Tuesday clarified that there is no direct relation between the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Maharashtra and some other states with the mutant virus strains N440K and E484Q of COVID-19.

ICMR has responded to media reports stating that the rise in COVID 19 cases in Amravati, Yavatmal and Satara were due to new mutant virus strains.

ICMR Director General Dr Balram Bhargava further clarified that these two virus strains have been detected in other countries too and are not specific to India. Moreover, they have been found earlier in some States in India. ‘’The E484Q strain was earlier detected in four sequences in Maharashtra as early as March and July 2020. The N440K mutation has been reported on 13 different occasions between May and September 2020 in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Assam. The current upsurge in Maharashtra cannot be attributed to the currently discussed point mutations,’’ he said.

However, Dr Bhargava said the situation is being constantly monitored. As further scientific evidence emerges, it shall be duly shared.

Further, the NITI Aayog Member (Health) VK Paul also said ‘’Both the N440K and E484K variants of SARS-CoV-2 have been detected in Maharashtra. In Kerala and Telangana also, these variants have been found. Also, three other mutated strains -- one each from the UK, South Africa and Brazil are already present in the country. But there is no reason for us to believe, on the basis of scientific information, that they are responsible for the upsurge of the outbreak in some districts of Maharashtra and Kerala.’’

He said the behaviour of mutations is being constantly and closely watched in the country and 3,500 strains have been sequenced so far.

The clarification from ICMR and NITI Aayog came on a day when 6,218 new COVID 19 positive cases and 51 deaths were reported in Maharashtra.

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