The Indian government have announced that they have found a “double mutant strain” of the virus as cases in the country are sky rocketing.
The SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG) in India, who are a group of 10 national laboraroies have undertaken genome sequencing on samples taken, which detail the whole of the genetic code.
Scientists found 736 positive samples out of 10,787 for the UK variant, 34 for the South African variant with just one for the Brazilian strain.
The Indian government said the analysis of all the samples collected from the western state of Maharashtra showed “an increase in the fraction of samples with the E484Q and L452R mutations” compared with December.
The Indian Health Ministry said in a statement, “Such [double] mutations confer immune escape and increased infectivity.”
The Health Ministry also reported their highest death rate since the start of November in 24 hours at 275 with 47,262 confirmed cases.
The country has recorded more than 11.7m cases and over 160,000 deaths have been recorded in the last year.
However the Indian government insist that there is no link between the surge in cases and the new variants that they have found.
The Health Ministry added, “Though VOCs [variants of concern] and a new double mutant variant have been found in India, these have not been detected in numbers sufficient to either establish a direct relationship or explain the rapid increase in cases in some states.”
Leading virologist Dr Shahid Jameel told the BBC this month, “We need to constantly monitor and make sure none of the variants of concern are spreading in the population.
“The fact that it is not happening now doesn’t mean it will not happen in the future.
“And we have to make sure that we get the evidence early enough.”
Experts are warning that India is in a “delicate phase” as the healthcare system is overwhelmed and the government have been forced ti impose strict restrictions, including curfews and lockdowns.
The Health Ministry said in a statement, “Any laxity at this point in ensuring strict adherence to contain the spread of COVID-19, may result in losing the impetus and benefits that our country has gained so far in managing the virus.”