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New variant of “delta plus” coronavirus identified in India

Relatives of Covid victim mourn at cremation grounds in New Delhi, India – Shutterstock

India has identified a new ‘worrying’ variant of the coronavirus – locally named delta plus – and officials say nearly two dozen cases have already been detected in three states.

As of Tuesday, the variant was found in 16 cases in the state of Maharashtra, according to Federal Secretary of Health Rajesh Bhushan.

The ministry said delta plus has shown increased transmissibility and advised states to increase testing.

India vaccinated a record 8.6 million people on Monday as it began offering free vaccines to all adults, but experts doubted it could maintain that pace.

“It is clearly not sustainable,” said Chandrakant Lahariya, an expert in public policy and health systems.

“With such day trips, many states have consumed most of their current vaccine stocks, which will affect immunization in the days to come.”

As part of the vaccine supply forecast for the next few months, the maximum achievable daily rate is estimated to be four to five million doses. The effort has so far covered around 5.5% of the 950 million eligible people, even though India is the world’s largest vaccine producer.

A devastating second wave in April and May overwhelmed health services, killing hundreds of thousands of people.

Since May, vaccinations have averaged less than three million doses per day, far less than the 10 million that health officials say are crucial to protecting the millions of people vulnerable to further outbreaks.

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