The results of a genomic analysis of the viral samples collected in Kerala around mid April has revealed that close to 40% of the cases in the state are caused by mutated SARS-CoV-2 viruses.
This is the first genomic analysis of the viruses carried out in the state during the second wave.
Giving out the results, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said 30% of the cases were detected to have been caused by the UK variant. The double mutant variant, first detected in Maharashtra, was found among 7% of the samples. The South African variant was detected in 2% of the samples.
While the UK variant does respond well to immunity generated by vaccines such as Covishield, the other two less sensitive to the vaccinations used in India.
Out of the three, the UK variant and the double mutant also spread more easily than the original virus.
Pinarayi Vijayan said that experts are of the opinion that these mutated strains of the virus probably started spreading in Kerala in the first week of April.
“They say that by now, their presence would be even higher, since their transmission capabilities are superior [to that of the original virus],” the chief minister said in his daily COVID update.
Pinarayi Vijayan said the current situation in Kerala is volatile and similar to what existed in Delhi and Mumbai several weeks ago.
Pointing to the disarray and chaos seen in the healthcare sector in North India, Vijayan said the chances of the situation in Kerala deteriorating to a similar level are “extremely high”.
Pointing out that the government is not in favor of a lock-down, he urged citizens to take all kinds of precautions on their part to avoid a similar fate.
“We have to brace ourselves for a strong wave of infections,” he warned.
Vijayan also urged people not to take the situation lightly. He said the current situation in Delhi, where seroprevalence studies had found 50-60% of the population to have recovered from the original virus, disproves the theory of herd immunity when dealing with a fast-mutating virus.
Kerala has, meanwhile, introduced several restrictions on movement, including a deadline of 7:30 PM for shops and dining halls and a night curfew for all non-essential activities. Hotlines have been opened for migrant workers.
Vijayan said malls and establishments found to be violating COVID-19 norms will be forced to shut for two days, and the duration of the shut-down would increase in case of repeated offenses.
Vijayan said the state government has asked the central government for an urgent supply of 50 lakh vaccines. Kerala has so far vaccinated nearly 58 lakh people, out of whom only 10.4 lakh have received two doses.
People who are due for getting their second dose are unable to do so due to a sudden change in the vaccine procurement policy by the center.
Vijayan said the request for vaccine doses has so far failed to elicit any response from the center.
“The center’s stand seems to be that the states should procure the vaccine directly from the manufacturers,” he said, adding that some contact has therefore been established with the vaccine makers.
The central government’s sudden change of stance in the middle of the vaccination campaign has pushed the Kerala government’s vaccination campaign into disarray. The government, already stretched for cash, has asked citizens to donate money to help the government buy the required doses.