Director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) Rakesh Mishra in an exclusive interview with The Hindu, addressed the concerns regarding the recent surge of COVID cases in India and the role of mutation in facilitating the virus to manifest differently in different people. The CCMB has been researching the coronavirus variants in India and studying the evolution of the virus including its mutations and strains. It is also a part of the SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia (INSACOG), alongside ten other institutes, set up by the Central Government for sequencing coronavirus genomes. When asked about the constant rise in cases in States such as Kerala and Maharashtra, Mr. Mishra explains that although no concrete reasons exist, there could be a few possibilities for the spread. One of them could be that the surge is due to a more transmissible variant from outside India, even though such speculations have not been confirmed. The second possibility could be of a new variant emerging within the country. To confirm this, the analysis of a larger number of people for a longer period needs to take place. However, since, no evidence of any common mutation or change in the cases has been discovered, it is less likely to be the cause. The third possibility is that adequate preventive measures are not being taken by people. This is by far the most plausible possibility and can lead to a chain reaction, giving birth to a sudden surge of cases. CCMB chief, Rakesh Mishra discussed the issues about the surge in COVID cases last year in comparison to this year including the risk of another wave. He also clarified the importance of vaccination to fight the virus. He stated that the likelihood of another wave hitting the country persists. As a result of the harsh summer season in India, people tend to stay indoors and depend on air conditioners and coolers to beat the heat, and then come out in the evening in masses. This could lead to an infection. However, the correlation between the COVID cases last year and this year’s rise could be purely coincidental Going by the trend of rising cases, it is understandable that the carelessness on people’s part is causing the surge. The spread can be easily controlled by following appropriate COVID protocols which include wearing a mask, washing hands, avoiding large gatherings as well as avoiding indoor crowding.
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