GS Paper - 2 Health and Disease

As India’s daily tally of Covid-19 infections surge by record 200,000-plus cases for three consecutive days, public health experts worry that a new — possibly more virulent — coronavirus variant could be racing through the crowded nation of more than 1.3 billion people. The new variant, which has a so-called double mutation, is thought to be fueling India’s deadlier new wave of infections that has made it the world’s second worst-hit country, surpassing Brazil, and has already begun to overwhelm its hospitals and crematoriums. The Asian nation has reported more than 14.5 million Covid cases so far and more than 175,600 fatalities.

How did the “double mutation” variant emerge?

  1. The new variant, called B.1.617, was initially detected in India with two mutationsthe E484Q and L452R.
  2. It was first reported late last year by a scientist in India and more details were presented before the WHO.
  3. Viruses mutate all the time, as part of evolutionary biology. Some mutations weaken the virus while others may make it stronger, enabling it to proliferate faster or cause more infections.
  4. India’s health ministry first acknowledged the presence of such a “double mutant” at the end of March, but has downplayed it since. While it’s a variant of interest, it “has not been stamped as a ‘variant of concern’ so as to say that it is more lethal or more infectious.
  5. The double mutation has been found in several countries like Australia, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Namibia, New Zealand, Singapore, the UK and the US.