Hyderabad: Deadly Delta Plus variant of COVID has been detected in Andhra Pradesh. Union Health Ministry on Tuesday notified Delta Plus variant as `Variant of Concern'.

Till now the country has reported 40 cases of Delta plus variants of which 21 are Maharashtra, six in Madhya Pradesh, three in Kerala, three in Tamil Nadu, two in Karnataka, and one each in Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.

Based on the recent findings of INSACOG, the Union Health Ministry has alerted and advised the states regarding the Delta Plus variant of COVID19 being found in some districts in these States.

INSACOG is a consortium of 28 laboratories of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Dept. of Biotechnology, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) for whole-genome sequencing in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

INSACOG is not only tasked for genome sequencing but also for giving timely inputs on appropriate Public Health Response measures to be adopted by States and UTs.

INSACOG has informed that the Delta Plus Variant, currently, a Variant of Concern (VOC), has the characteristics of Increased transmissibility, stronger binding to receptors of lung cells and potential reduction in monoclonal antibody response.

The Union Health Ministry said that Chief Secretaries of states have been advised to take up immediate containment measures in the districts and clusters (as identified by INSACOG) including preventing crowds & intermingling of people, widespread testing, prompt tracing as well as vaccine coverage on a priority basis.

They were also advised to ensure that adequate samples of positive persons are promptly sent to the designated laboratories of INSACOG so that clinical epidemiological correlations can be made for further guidance to be provided to States.

The Delta plus variant is now in nine countries - US, UK, Portugal, Switzerland, Japan, Poland, Russia, and China besides India.

There are concerns over whether current vaccines will be effective against Delta Plus.

The government said while the two vaccines being used in India -- Serum Institute of India's Covishield, and Bharat Biotech's Covaxin -- are effective against the Delta variant, data on how they work on the Delta Plus would be shared later. "We will share more information with you shortly," said Rajesh Bhushan, Union Health Secretary.

But health experts say the prevalence of this variant is currently low.

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