India has detected a new “double mutant variant” of the novel coronavirus, the health ministry said on Wednesday, adding to concern as the government struggles with the highest single-day tally of new infections and deaths this year.
Genome sequencing and analysis of samples from Maharashtra state found mutations in the virus that did not match previously catalogued “variants of concern” (VOC), the ministry said in a statement.
Maharashtra is one of India’s worst-affected states but the ministry said it was not clear if the new variant was causing an upsurge there or in other states.
“Though VOCs and a new double mutant variant have been found in India, these 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 said in a statement. It did not elaborate.
India has already reported several cases of a variant first detected in Britain, as well as ones first found in South Africa and Brazil.
The number of deaths from COVID-19 in India in the previous 24 hours rose to 275, the most this year, taking the total to 160,441, government data showed.
Several states announced a ban on large gatherings ahead of the Hindu festival of Holi this weekend.
The health ministry said states were “strongly advised” to restrict public observation of festivals.