New Delhi: The government Friday asserted that no case of the Lambda variant of SARS-CoV-2 has been found in India so far.

Responding to a question at a press briefing, joint secretary in the health ministry, Lav Agarwal, said Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) is closely monitoring the variant.

“Lambda was the seventh variant of interest identified by the WHO (World Health Organisation) on June 14 and it has been detected in 25 countries,” he said.

“In our country, no cases have been reported and INSACOG is monitoring it and we are watchful. In Peru, 80 per cent of infections were from this variant. It has also been found in South American countries and also in the UK and European countries, and any public health impact will be monitored,” Agarwal said.

NITI Aayog Member (Health) Dr V K Paul said Lambda is a variant of interest, so its total significance is still being explored.

“As far as we know it has not entered our country, we have not detected this variant in our country. Our surveillance system INSACOG is very effective and it will detect it if it happens to enter our country because when you do sequencing, all this will be picked up. So we should watch for that,” he said.

Paul said the Lambda strain is a variant of interest which means its public health significance is being watched but it has not been proven for excessive transmissibility, for impact on excess severity or any other public health issues like those related to vaccines.

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“We should be watchful for these variants because the virus is under pressure and when it goes under pressure then it tends to pick up characteristics that tend to help it in survival but as of now we should be watching such variants for their presence in our country but as of now we have no evidence that this has been detected in any part of our country,” he added.

In cases of the Kappa variant of COVID-19 being reported, Paul said this variant was present in the country even during February and March and much less in intensity and has been replaced by the Delta variant largely.

“Kappa variant was present in the country even during February-March but Delta variant which is similar to Kappa variant. It was suppressed when the Delta variant surfaced and we had this variant (Kappa) for some time in our nation, it has been overwhelmed by the delta variant which is a related variant and is much more transmissible and that has been responsible for the second wave we saw. This variant (Kappa) is much less in the intensity, it is on the margins and has been replaced by delta largely,” he said.

“We should scientifically keep a watch on its severity, transmissibility and vaccine effectiveness and like in other variants we have kept a watch same goes for this. The Kappa variant is also a variant of interest,” Paul added.

Two cases of Kappa variant of COVID-19 have been detected in Uttar Pradesh, according to an official statement issued on Friday.

Genome sequencing of 109 samples was done at King George’s medical college here in the past few days. The Delta Plus variant of COVID-19 was found in 107 samples, while the Kappa variant was found in two samples, the statement issued after Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s routine review meeting said.

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