Maharashtra reported over 28,000 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday (Reuters Photo)
NEW DELHI: The Centre on Wednesday said that the rising coronavirus cases in Maharashtra and Punjab is a matter of "grave concern". Both the states continue to report a huge number of cases in proportion to their population.
On Tuesday, Maharashtra and Punjab had reported 28,699 and 2,254 fresh infections respectively, together accounting for over 65% of the total cases in India.
"Two states are of grave concern, that have shown a recent surge in cases - Maharashtra, that reported more than 28,000 cases in the last 24 hours and Punjab, that is reporting huge number of cases in proportion to its population," Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan said in a media briefing.
Bhushan said that besides these two, the rapid rise in Covid infections in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh is also a cause for concern.
"Most cases in Gujarat are concentrated in Surat, Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Rajkot and Bhavnagar. In MP, the cases are concentrated in Bhopal, Indore, Jabalpur, Ujjain and Betul," the health secretary said.
He further said that overall, nine of the top 10 districts in India where the maximum cases are concentrated are in Maharashtra while one is in Karnataka. These are: Pune, Nagpur, Mumbai, Thane, Nashik, Aurangabad, Bengaluru Urban, Nanded, Jalgaon and Akola.
Talking about the Centre's decision to expand the vaccination drive to include all those above the age of 45, he said, "About 88 per cent of all Covid-19 deaths in the country are taking place above the age group of 45 years. The case fatality rate above 45 years is 2.85 per cent. So this age group is vulnerable and the decision has been taken based on scientific inputs."
Earlier today, the Union health ministry had said that a new "double mutant variant" of SARS-CoV-2 has been detected in India in addition to the several "variants of concern" that have already been found in at least 18 states.
The analysis of samples from Maharashtra has revealed that compared to December 2020, there has been an increase in the fraction of samples with the E484Q and L452R mutations, the ministry said.
Speaking about the new coronavirus variants, National Centre for Disease Control Director S K Singh said 771 variants of concern (VOCs) have been detected in 18 states and union territories, which include 736 samples positive for viruses of the UK (B.1.1.7) lineage.
Till now, no linkage has been established to say that the surge being witnessed in some states is directly because of only mutations.
There are various reasons behind a surge.
States having a larger pool of susceptible population are prone to witness rise in cases. Whenever the susceptible population will lower their guard and not follow Covid-19-appropriate behaviour, they will get the infection, be it the normal virus or the mutants, he said.
There are only three variants of concern, detected in the UK, South Africa and Brazil.
In addition to these, some other variants of interest have also been found in some states, including Maharashtra and Delhi, which need to be further analysed and investigated, he added.
"As of now these can be at best said to be variant under investigation," the ministry said.
"Though VOCs and a new double mutant variant have been found in India, these have not been detected in numbers sufficient to either establish or direct relationship or explain the rapid increase in cases in some States," the ministry said.
(With inputs from PTI, ANI)