The recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Tamil Nadu could have been due to the Delta variant of the virus, a study on the genome sequencing of the SARS-CoV-2 released by the state government’s health department has found.
The study released by Chennai’s Directorate of Public Health and Preventive Medicine said that around 70 per cent or 386 of 554 samples tested between December 2020 and May 2021 had the Delta variant (B.1.617.2) of the coronavirus. Of the total samples, 8.5 per cent were found with the Alpha variant or the UK variant.
According to the study, the Delta variant was mostly found in children and adults above 12 years of age, who in turn consisted 81 per cent of the lot. Only 19 per cent of children aged below 12 years were diagnosed with the variant.
The mutant, first identified in India, has already been tagged as a Variant of Concern (VOC) with a higher risk of transferability than its parent version by the World Health Organisation.
The study said that it was mostly found in community and family clusters.
Suchithra Menon, a virologist that IANS spoke to said that the study is an indication that people must not let their guards down, especially when a third wave is looming.
“Vaccination of maximum population, wearing masks, safe distancing, and hand sanitization should continue to prevent the COVID-19 attack,” she told IANS.
First detected in India, the Delta variant has spread to 80 countries and is the dominant variant in many including the UK. It is suspected behind the outbreak of the second wave of the pandemic in India, which saw the daily cases and death tolls running into thousands at the peak of the pandemic this year.
With epidemiologists anticipating a third wave of the pandemic in October or November, Delta Plus, another offshoot of the Delta variant is being closely watched. AIIMS chief Randeep Guleria has cautioned that the variant shouldn’t be overlooked as it too, like its parent, may turn from a ‘variant of interest’ into a ‘variant of concern’ if left unattended.
Tamil Nadu on Sunday extended its lockdown till 6 am on June 28 while also announcing relaxation in norms.