India’s COVID-19 Triple Variant

by Meghana Paturu ’22

Source: TIME Magazine

Published May 8th, 2021

The current wave of COVID-19 has taken quite a toll on India, with daily infections reaching 414,188 cases on May 6, a new record. 

With India’s health crisis worsening by the day, the nation worries about the homegrown, triple mutant strain variant called B.1.617. 

Found in Maharashtra, the second most populous state in India, the new strain was first detected in India in October. Like all the other variants, this strain has been formed through the process of viral replication. As the coronavirus infects new people, it has more chances to be copied. Inevitably, the virus will accumulate more mutations, some of which will combine to form a new variant such as B.1.617. 

As more information is being discovered about B.1.617, India has been preparing to face a new challenge. Despite the extenuating circumstances, scientists and government officials have not faltered at working tirelessly to find a solution. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, government officials have made highly restrictive travel bans for people overseas. However, they are now working on immediately formulating regulations that will control and restrict citizens from mobilizing even within the nation.

As cases and deaths exponentially increase in India, the country’s health infrastructure has been left in disarray as supplies have been running out. Consequently, hospitals are turning away sick newcomers due to being filled to maximum capacity. To improve the situation, last Monday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke with President Biden, who pledged to provide oxygen, personal protective equipment, assistance for scientific research, and other medical supplies to the country. 

Although many officials and scientists are continuing the race to find solutions, general distrust in the Indian healthcare system has made dealing with the pandemic even more difficult. 

Many citizens living in India are hesitant to receive the vaccine as they believe that symptoms from COVID-19 are mild and can be resolved without severe complications. Accordingly, the number of cases currently being reported is far less than the actual number experts believe exists. Because of this, India is unable to measure an accurate infection rate, preventing scientists from seeing how virulent any variant in India might be.

Experts now worry about what will come next. Shanta Dutta, a medical research scientist at the state-run National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases, says, “We are in a very grave situation. We need to implement total lockdown in hotspot areas, not allow people to step out, and ensure the supply of essential commodities. Most importantly, India needs to carry out mass testing through rapid test kits and, if found positive, these cases should be reconfirmed.”

Overwhelmed by new cases, India has been unable to catch up with the demand as patients in all parts of India have been abandoned to die. However, by educating the public and acquiring supplies, India hopes it can preserve lives, preserve families, and preserve its way of life.

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