Centre says no major mutation in coronavirus in India; active cases fall below 8 lakh after over a month

The term 'mutation' typically refers to the tendency of a virus to undergo changes when it multiplies, causing the virus to develop some new strains. This could hinder the development of an effective vaccine

FP Staff October 17, 2020 21:47:57 IST
Centre says no major mutation in coronavirus in India; active cases fall below 8 lakh after over a month

Representational image. AFP

The tally of active COVID-19 cases in India fell below eight lakhs for the first time in one and a half months on Saturday. The figure of active cases account for "merely" 10.70 percent of the total caseload in the country, the Union health ministry said.

The active caseload was below the 8 lakh-mark (7,85,996) last on 1 September, the ministry added. Currently, the number of active cases is 7,95,087.

The total number of cases in the country rose to 74,32,680 with 62,212 new infections reported in the last 24 hours.

Meanwhile, countrywide recoveries have risen to 65,24,595 with 70,816 COVID-19 patients being discharged on Saturday. The national recovery rate rose to 87.78 percent. The recoveries exceed active infections by 57,29,508, the ministry said.

"With a high number of COVID-19 patients recovering every day, India's steady trend of registering dipping active cases continues," the ministry added.

"India is the only country with the highest recoveries and continues to have one of the lowest fatality rates globally. The case fatality rate as on date stands at 1.52 percent. These have in tandem resulted in consistent slide in the active cases," the ministry highlighted.

It said that 78 percent of the new recovered cases are observed to be concentrated in 10 states and UTs — Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Odisha.

Seventy-nine percent of the 62,212 new cases of COVID-19 recorded in a span of 24 hours are also from the 10 states and UTs — Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha, the ministry said.

The Ministry of Health has deputed high-level central teams to Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal as these states have been reporting a surge in the number of new COVID-19 cases in the recent days, PTI reported.

The teams will aid the state government in strengthening containment, surveillance, testing, infection prevention and control measures, and efficient clinical management of positive cases.

PMO says COVID-19 genome studies suggest virus is genetically stable

As efforts to develop an effective COVID-19 vaccine continue, the Centre on Saturday said that two nationwide studies on the genome of the virus in India suggest it is genetically stable and has shown no major mutation.

There had been concerns in some quarters that any major mutation detected in the novel coronavirus could hinder the development of an effective vaccine. However, some recent global studies have said the vaccines currently being developed for COVID-19 should not be affected by recent mutations.

The term 'mutation' typically refers to the tendency of a virus to undergo changes when it multiplies, causing the virus to develop some new strains after it replicates. In some cases, the new strains tend to be less effective and therefore die out soon, while it is also likely that more powerful strains may lead to faster spread of the virus.

After a review meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the COVID-19 pandemic situation and preparedness of vaccine delivery, distribution and administration, the Prime Minister's Office issued a statement saying that three vaccines are in advanced stages of development in India, out of which two are in Phase II and one is in Phase-III.

The PMO further said, "Two pan-India studies on the Genome of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19 virus) in India conducted by ICMR and the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) suggest that the virus is genetically stable and there is no major mutation in the virus."

Last month, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had said no significant or drastic mutations have been found in strains of SARS-CoV-2 in India till now.

He had also said the ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) was conducting large-scale sequencing of nationally representative strains collected over a few months and detailed results on mutations of the virus will be available in early October.

Replying to a query on mutations of SARS-COV2, ICMR Director-General Dr Balram Bhargava had said at a press briefing earlier this week that minor changes called "drifts" may happen from time to time, but major genetic mutations of viruses or "shifts" may happen in about a decade or two.

In this context, the effectiveness of a vaccine will not be determined by minor "drifts", he had said.

A study by a group of researchers last month found that the coronavirus genomes in India have 5.39 percent mutation similarity with 72 nations.

Mutations in an organism's genetic material are natural 'errors' in the cell replication process that may give the virus new 'powers' of survival, infectivity, and virulence. It can affect the ability of vaccines and drugs to bind the virus or to create a specific immune response against it.

Delhi govt says decision to reserve beds in private hospitals taken to mitigate spread

Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain said that the move to reserve beds for COVID-19 patients in several private hospitals was to "mitigate the spread of COVID-19", and those levelling allegations on the government were trying to "jeopardise efforts" being made for people's welfare.

A plea in the Delhi High Court has challenged the 13 September order of the government, in which it directed 33 private hospitals to reserve at least 80 percent of their total ICU beds for COVID-19 patients.

"The decision to reserve beds for COVID-19 patients stems out of sheer concern to mitigate spread of virus. Those putting allegations against the Delhi government are trying to jeopardise the efforts made by us for the welfare of our citizens," he said.

Jain made the assertion in a Facebook post and also shared a news article related to the issue.

The Delhi government has significantly ramped up testing in the past few days, with the count on several times crossing the 60,000-mark.

The government on Friday told the Delhi High Court that the policy decision regarding private hospitals was taken as a stop-gap and temporary measure.

In an affidavit filed before Justice Navin Chawla, the AAP government vehemently denied that the decision, which was stayed by the high court on 22 September, was in violation of any fundamental right of the citizens of Delhi and termed the petition by 'Association of Healthcare Providers' as wholly misplaced and baseless.

The high court granted one week time to the petitioner association to file a rejoinder to the government's affidavit and listed the matter for further hearing on 18 November.

Bangladesh to resume flights to India under 'air bubble' arrangement

Bangladesh is all set to resume flights to India from 28 October under the 'air bubble' arrangement, after nearly eight months. Under a bilateral air bubble pact, airlines of both the countries can operate international flights with certain restrictions, PTI reported.

Since July, India has established such bubbles with several countries, including the US, the UK, France and Germany.

Three Bangladeshi carriers — Biman Bangladeshi Airlines, US-Bangla Airlines and Novo Air — will initially operate 28 flights a week, while five Indian airlines — Air India, IndiGo, SpiceJet, Vistara and GoAir — will operate 28 flights a week between the two countries, The Daily Star reported, quoting civil aviation and tourism ministry Senior Secretary Md Mohibul Haque.

Of the three Bangladeshi carriers, Biman is scheduled to operate flights on Dhaka-Delhi and Dhaka-Kolkata routes, US-Bangla Airlines on Dhaka-Chennai and Novo Air on Dhaka-Kolkata route, the report said.

The five Indian airlines are expected to operate flights on Dhaka-Delhi, Dhaka-Kolkata, Dhaka-Chennai and Dhaka-Mumbai routes.

State-wise deaths

The 837 new COVID-19 deaths on Saturday include 306 from Maharashtra, 73 from Karnataka, 61 from West Bengal, 57 from Tamil Nadu, 46 from Uttar Pradesh and 40 from Chhattisgarh.

The total 1,12,998 deaths reported so far in the country include 41,502 from Maharashtra, followed by 10,529 from Tamil Nadu, 10,356 from Karnataka, 6,589 from Uttar Pradesh, 6,382 from Andhra Pradesh, 5,946 from Delhi, 5,931 from West Bengal, 3,980 from Punjab and 3,617 from Gujarat.

With inputs from agencies

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