There's now a "double mutant" variant of the novel coronavirus spreading in India. The nation's Health Ministry said Wednesday that a double variant—two mutations in the same virus—was detected in the country, along with other variants first discovered in the UK (B.1.1.7), South Africa (B.1.351), and Brazil (P.1). What that means, plus more coronavirus news:
- The Health Ministry describes "an increase in the fraction of samples with the E484Q and L452R mutations" compared to December, adding "such mutations confer immune escape and increased infectivity." The New Indian Express reports "E484Q can escape antibody neutralization and L452R is known to increase infectivity and has been linked to large pockets in the US."
- The double mutations were found in 15% to 20% of samples taken from Maharashtra state during genomic sequencing, the ministry said. Of 10,787 samples taken from 18 states, 771 were positive for variants of concern. While India's cases are surging, the variants "have not been detected in numbers sufficient to either establish [a] direct relationship or explain the rapid increase in cases in some states," the ministry says.
- The news comes as Brazil set yet another record Tuesday, passing 3,000 daily deaths from coronavirus. The 3,251 death total was reported before President Jair Bolsonaro promised residents would soon "resume our normal lives," per the BBC. The outlet notes cases are also rising in the border regions of neighboring Venezuela, Peru, and Bolivia.
- Given the variants and the relaxed restrictions in many areas, global deaths are climbing, along with the number of new infections, which fell for six consecutive weeks in January and February, reports the Washington Post. "The global trend suggests that US deaths, which have continued to fall for months, may soon rise again as well," it notes.
- But there's good news in the state of Georgia, where residents ages 16 and older will be eligible for a vaccine beginning Thursday, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "This is our ticket back to normal," Gov. Brian Kemp said in announcing the expansion. Alaska and Mississippi are also allowing all adults to be vaccinated, while Texas, Oklahoma, and Georgia will do so by the end of the month. Nearly 84 million people have received at least one dose in the US.
- Meanwhile, in Germany, where B.1.1.7 is spreading, Chancellor Angela Merkel has scrapped a plan for a five-day shutdown over Easter. She said the plan, announced early Tuesday, was drawn up "to slow and reverse the third wave of the pandemic ... but it could not be implemented well enough in this short time," per the AP.
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