Coronavirus Pandemic

Covid in India: UAE doctors analyse link between surge in cases, new variants

SM Ayaz Zakir/Dubai
Filed on April 28, 2021
A woman with breathing problem waits inside an ambulance for her turn to enter a Covid-19 hospital in Ahmedabad. — Reuters

India’s Health Ministry announced last month that it had detected 771 variants of concern (VOCs) of the coronavirus in India.

For more than a week, more than 2,000 Indians have been dying every day because of Covid-19 and on Wednesday, the country faced the grim reality of recording over 200,000 virus deaths.

Indian doctors in the UAE, who are keeping a close watch on the crisis back home, have looked into the coronavirus variants in the country, shedding light on why Covid is spreading fast.

India’s Health Ministry announced last month that it had detected 771 variants of concern (VOCs) of the coronavirus in India. These include viruses of the UK (B.1.1.7) lineage, South African (B.1.351) lineage, Brazilian (P.1) lineage, N440K variant, etc.

>>> ALSO READ: India's double mutant variant found in 17 countries

200,000 deaths as virus surge breaks health system

The country’s mutant covid viruses are ‘double mutant’ and ‘triple mutant’, said Dr Sandeep Pargi, pulmonology and respiratory medicine specialist at Aster Hospital, Mankhool. They were first seen in India in October last year, and similar strains were found in the UK and the US.

The double mutant spreads fast and some experts believe it could be transmitted as one talks or breathes without a mask. The triple one is said to be “more virulent” compared to the last strain, they said. “The triple mutant, B.1.618 — also known as the Bengal strain — includes the E 484K mutation. For this, antibodies from a previous infection and a vaccine may be less effective,” Dr Pargi said.

However, health experts stressed that there is not enough data to link the sudden surge in cases to the new mutant virus.

Dr Gunjan Mahajan, clinical pathologist at Burjeel Hospital for Advanced Surgery, Dubai, said: “Though VOCs and a new double, triple mutant variant have been found in India, these have not been detected in numbers sufficient to either establish a direct relationship with the rapid increase in cases in some states. More genomic sequencing and epidemiological studies are required to substantiate these findings.”

Whatever the strain, though, the doctors said the same preventive measures apply.

Dr Mohammed Rafique, pulmonologist and medical director at Prime Hospital, advised Indians back home: “Always wear mask when leaving home. Avoid meeting people without masks even if they are friends or distant family members. Consult a doctor if you’re suffering from fever that lasts for two to three days. Avoid social gatherings.”

And, above all, get vaccinated, he added.

“India’s Health Ministry said it has administered 132 million vaccine doses so far in a population of nearly 1.4 billion. That means fewer than 10 per cent have received one dose, and fewer than two per cent have received both,” Dr Gunjan said.

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