COVID-19 second wave: Maharashtra, Punjab reporting highest daily cases and deaths, say data

By PTI
PUNE: Lockdown helps in containing the spread of coronavirus, but affects the economy adversely and hence there is a need to strike a balance while imposing it, Director-General of the CSIR, Dr Shekhar Mande, said on Sunday.

While speaking to reporters virtually, he also said that the L452R mutant of coronavirus that was detected in California in the USA, is causing concern in Maharashtra right now.

Dr Mande said there is very little evidence that the vaccine would not work on the virus mutant and added that vaccination reduces the intensity of the disease.

“Lockdown will help in containing the spread as people stay indoors. Even if the virus spreads, it will only affect the family members and it will not spread outside. If you see the last year’s lockdown in India, the spread of the disease was quite slow in the country as compared to other countries, including Italy which witnessed an explosion of COVID-19,” he said.

But in India, it did not happen because lockdown had been imposed in the country in March, the DG of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research said.

“But there are side-effects of the lockdown as it affects the economy adversely which leads to job losses. So, we need to look for the balance while imposing lockdowns. Possibilities need to be seen whether full or partial lockdown can be imposed,” he said.

His remarks come on the day the Maharashtra government announced a weekend lockdown and a slew of restrictions in the state to curb the spread of the virus.

Speaking about mutations of the virus, Dr Mande said, “L452R mutant of the virus detected in California, is causing concern in Maharashtra right now. At this moment, we can only hypothesise and as per the hypothesis. It is possible that some people might have carried this mutant from California to other destinations and that is spreading wildly.”

He added that as far as sequencing is concerned, a lot of samples have been sequenced from different districts of Maharashtra and many of them actually fell in the category of this L452R mutation and its other combinations are E484Q and E687.

Dr Mande said that the Scientific Advisory Group of the Indian SARS CoV 2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) has completed more than 10,000 sequences till now.

“In Maharashtra, National Institute of Virology and National Centre of Cell Science are currently sequencing. To step up sequencing, we are also roping in National Chemical Laboratory in Pune,” he said.

He said that since it has been revealed that L452R is spreading in Maharashtra rapidly, the government has been asked to keep a close watch on those whose samples had this mutant.

“If today one person tests positive and it comes to light that the sample of the person has this particular mutant, then it is the responsibility of the authorities to inform the person and get him quarantined,” he said.

“We are keeping a close watch on those who have this particular mutant in their samples,” he added.

He said that he and others from INSACOGare in constant touch with the Maharashtra government and members of the task force.

“We have already sent them a format on how to do the sampling (for sequencing) and it has been communicated to all the district administrations that how we have to do the sampling in every district,” he added.

Speaking about the vaccines and mutations of the virus, Dr Mande added that there is very little evidence that the vaccine would not work on the mutants.

“There are two divergent views that have emerged in the scientific literature in the last one or two months that some vaccines are less effective on mutants. But these views are challenged by others, who say that the vaccines are equally effective on mutants.”

“So, the debate is on in the scientific world at this stage about the definite benefit of the vaccines that have been found. But one thing is sure that vaccination reduces the intensity of the disease,” he said.