Itanagar: Health authorities in Arunachal Pradesh have detected around six cases of the highly contagious B.1.617.2 lineage of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the state.

Tomo Riba Institute of Health and Medical Sciences (TRIHMS) media cell in-charge Dr Jego Ori on Saturday said that the initial results of genomic sequencing of the COVID-19 samples show that the Indian strain of the Coronavirus B.1.617.2 variant has been identified in Arunachal Pradesh.

“Six out of the 10 Covid-19 positive samples that were sent to Regional Medical Research Centre (RMRC) in Dibrugarh, Assam for DNA sequencing have the newly identified and infectious Indian variant B.1.617.2, a sub-lineage of B.1.617,” Dr Ori said.

The SARS-CoV-2 lineage B.1.617 which consists of at least 3 sub-lineages — B.1.617.1, B.1.617.2 and B.1.617.3 — has been classified as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organisation.

Dr Ori, who is also the general secretary of Indian Medical Association-Arunachal Pradesh (IMA-AP), said the B.1.617 variant of SARS-COV2, also called the Indian strain, has been largely prevalent in Maharashtra and Delhi that have been severely hit by the devastating second wave of the pandemic.

The B.1.617 variant is believed to be partly responsible for India’s devastating second wave of the pandemic that began this February. Emerging research suggests the variant may be more transmissible than the previously evolved ones.

“The B.1.617.2 which is a sub-lineage of B.1.617 seems more transmissible by looking at experiences of Delhi and Maharashtra. The more people are infected, the greater risk of mortality,” the health official said.

B.1.617 was first detected in India last October while the first sample of its sub-lineage B.1.617.2 was detected in the country on December 12 2020.

Dr Ori said the B.1.617.2 variant found in Arunachal Pradesh has the L452R &T478k spike protein.

Also read: Watch: Medical student roughed up in Pasighat over COVID-19 protocol

Call to extend lockdown

Meanwhile, health officials in Arunachal Pradesh have asked the state government to extend the lockdown in the Itanagar Capital Region (ICR) for at least 14 days to curb the Covid-19 spread.

The Indian Medical Association-Arunachal Pradesh (IMA-AP) in a representation to chief minister Pema Khandu on Saturday said that the lockdown needs to be extended for a period of another 14 days due to “compelling reasons”.

“The Covid-19 positivity rate in the ICR remains as high as 19.8 percent with not much indication of a downward trend. Despite increasing the capacity, the dedicated Covid Hospital in Chimpu is on the verge of getting overwhelmed with nearly 70 percent of its beds occupied. The death rate today is highest since the beginning of the pandemic while the highly contagious B.1.617 variant of SARS-COV2 has also been detected in Arunachal Pradesh,” the IMA-AP said in its representation.

Scientific data shows that to actually break the chain of transmission, at least 3 weeks lockdown is mandatory. Therefore, the IMA-AP highly recommends your government to extend a lock in the ICR for another 14 days with strong measures to restrict the movement of vulnerable people, the association said in its letter.

Health minister Alo Libang had also on Friday said that his department has recommended extension of lockdown in the ICR.

The ICR that consists of Itanagar, the state capital, Naharlagun, Nirjuli and Banderdewa is under complete lockdown till May 17.

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