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Is a new variant causing the current COVID surge? Health min calls review meet

Owing to the sudden rise in the number of COVID cases across the country,  Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya will chair a high-level review meeting on Friday. The meeting will be attended by the core team of experts including Dr Randip Guleria, ICMR Director-General Dr Balram Bhargava and NCDC director Sujeet Singh. Few topics of discussion are likely to be the reason behind the surge and emergence of new variants. 

Last week, the INSACOG asked states/UTs to submit “larger number” of samples for whole genome sequencing from districts and areas which had seen a surge in COVID-19 cases in the past week. The direction was issued to check the possibility of any new emerging variant or sub-variant and the reason behind breakthrough infections. 

What is causing the recent COVID surge? 

As per INSACOG, the current covid surge is caused by Omicron and its sublineages, primarily BA. 2 and BA.2.38. The BA.2 and its sublineages constitute over 85%of the cases with BA.2.38 being found in around 33% of the samples. The percentage of BA.4 and BA.5 is found in less than 10 per cent samples, the source said.

“The last review meeting stated that there is no variant of concern in the country as of now. India now has BA.4 and BA.5 in addition to BA.2 which have slightly higher transmissibility as compared to other Omicron sublineages,” the official said.

Which states are reporting most cases?

For the past couple of weeks, India has been witnessing a sharp jump in COVID cases. A total of 10 states — Maharashtra, Kerala, Delhi, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, West Bengal and Gujarat — have over 1,000 active cases.

Forty-three districts in India, including 11 from Kerala, six from Mizoram and five from Maharashtra, are reporting a weekly Covid positivity rate of more than 10 per cent. In 42 districts, including eight from Rajasthan, five from Delhi and four from Tamil Nadu, the weekly positivity is between 5 and 10 per cent, sources said.

A total of 12,249 new coronavirus infections were reported in a day, taking India’s infection tally to 4,33,31,645, while the active cases have increased to 81,687, according to the Union health ministry data updated on Wednesday.

Friday meeting will also be attended by Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, Secretary of Department of Biotechnology Rajesh S Gokhale, Secretary in the Department of Pharmaceuticals S Aparna, among others. 

(With inputs from agencies) 

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