Srinagar, June 3: The sudden spike of Covid-19 cases in J&K can now officially be blamed on the new variants with official figures confirming that over 60 percent of the samples had mutations. The notorious Indian and UK strains have been reported as one of the commonest here.
The Health and Medical Education Department of J&K Government said surveillance data from Jammu and Srinagar showed “significant” mutations among the samples that had been tested at The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG). As per the data shared by the department, in Kashmir division 61 percent - 328 out of the 536 samples tested and reported - had mutations. The most common variant, comprising 27 percent of mutations, has been the B.1.1.7, generally known as the UK variant and now named Alpha variant.
The Indian variant, generally known as Double Mutant (B.1.617.2) has 12.5 percent share among mutations, overall affecting 7.6 percent of tested samples. This variant was named Delta variant by World Health Organisation (WHO) earlier this week and remains a Variant of Concern (VoC).
The WHO said on Wednesday: “It has become evident that greater public health risks are currently associated with B.1.617.2.” The virus has been associated with greater transmissibility by public health experts. The other common variant detected is the basic mutant B.1, with nearly 13 percent samples.
Financial Commissioner Health and Medical Education, Atal Dulloo, said his department was keeping a close vigil on the variants circulating in J&K. “In Kashmir division, we have sent 972 samples for genome sequencing to INSACOG labs of which we have received 536 reports and 436 are pending,” he said. The FC said J&K was sending 5 percent of samples randomly from those testing positive as per GoI directions. In addition, he said, 41 samples among those with travel history to notified countries have also been sent for testing. “Nine of those have been found to have mutation,” he said.
Earlier last week, J&K’s Advisory Committee report on COVID19 Third Wave stated that the mutant strains of the virus, majorly Indian and UK variants, had “nearly replaced” the wild strains. “Temporally both variants were introduced in the community by Jan-Feb 2021 and took over the wild strain of the virus fast (within a matter of weeks) and nearly displaced it by April-May 2021,” the report said.
It further said that COVID second wave showed a higher caseload in Kashmir province and a higher case fatality rate in Jammu, possibly due to the different proportion of the two variants in the two provinces. “Kashmir province had a higher proportion of UK variants while Jammu province had a major contribution from the Indian variant.”