The day before, the country set another record for daily mortality from coronavirus infection - more than 3.7 thousand people died. In addition, India remains the world leader in the daily increase in new cases of Covid-19. It accounts for nearly half of the new infections reported globally in the last week.
Where and when appeared
The identification of a new variant of the coronavirus, officially named B.1.617, was announced by the Indian government at the end of March. Scientists suggest that it appeared in October last year.
B.1.617 has been nicknamed the "double mutant", although this is a bit misleading. In fact, the Indian variant of the coronavirus has at least 13 different mutations, just two of them - E484Q and L452R - are of particular interest to scientists.
These mutations are not new. E484Q is similar to E484K, previously found in British, South African and Brazilian strains, L452R in California.
The peculiarity of the Indian strain is that these mutations exist in it simultaneously. They are located in key areas of the spike protein - the part of the virus with which it is introduced into human cells.
This is thought to make it easier for Covid-19 to enter the body, thus accelerating its spread. It is also possible that these mutations help the new strain to evade antibodies. This means that those who have already been ill or have been vaccinated can become infected with the new strain.
"The Indian variant certainly has mutations similar to those that elude the best neutralizing antibodies," Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London, told the Evening Standard.
Experts from the Institute of Molecular Biology and Genetics of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine believe that the Indian strain is less dangerous than the British one. The latter, we recall, caused the third wave of Covid-19 in Ukraine.
The same opinion is shared by Dr. Jeffrey Barrett of the British Senger Institute.
And also his colleague from Louisiana State University, virologist Jeremy Kamil.
"I doubt that the Indian version is more contagious than the British one. We must not panic," Kamila quotes the BBC.
V.1.617 continues to be studied, and at this stage, scientists do not have a sure answer to a number of extremely important questions. For example, is this option twice as dangerous, infectious, or deadly. Whether it can cause a more severe illness or increase the likelihood of re-infection. All this remains to be seen.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has so far classified the Indian strain as "of interest." That is, it is being monitored, but its existence is not yet regarded as a cause for concern.
What effect the Indian strain will have on the effectiveness of existing vaccines is also not yet known for certain.
A spokesman for the manufacturer of the vaccine Somirnaty (better known as Pfizer) assured yesterday that it reliably protects against all known strains.
"We do not have any evidence that our vaccine will not work against any of the common options," CBC TV channel quoted the director of BioNTech Ugur Sakhin as saying.
A similar statement was made earlier by the director-general of the Israeli Ministry of Health, Hezi Levy, noting that Pfizer has effectiveness against the Indian strain, albeit a reduced one.
The COVAXIN vaccine (one of three vaccines approved for use in India) also protects against the new Covid-19 variant, according to a preprint from a study by the Indian Medical Research Council and Bharat Biotech.
Also, based on the preliminary results of a study by the Indian Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology, the drug Covishield, from which the mass immunization campaign in Ukraine started, is effective against the new strain.
Given the ability of viruses to mutate, in the future, drugs against Covid-19 will be improved in order to increase their effectiveness. At the same time, scientists urge not to wait for the "perfect" vaccine and get vaccinated now. Either way, anti-coronavirus drugs can slow the spread of the disease.
"Double mutant" broke through the border
According to the global GISAID database, to date, the Indian strain of Covid-19 has been identified in at least 35 countries of the world, including Poland and Romania, neighboring Ukraine.
In Poland, the first case of infection with the mutant virus was recorded on Sunday, May 2. A diplomat who was evacuated from India the day before has become infected. Two days later, the country reported 16 cases of infection with this strain. The head of the Polish Ministry of Health, Adam Nedzelski, expressed concerns that new mutations could lead to another wave of Covid-19.
In Romania, the Indian strain was confirmed a week ago in a 26-year-old boy who arrived in the country about a month ago. He had mild symptoms, reports Reuters.
Other European countries that the Indian strain has already reached include the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland and the Czech Republic.
The US reported its first case of double mutation virus infection early last month.
The Indian strain was noted on almost all continents. So, he got to Australia, Ecuador, Brazil. It has already been recorded in Singapore, Malaysia, on the Caribbean island of Sint Maarten, etc.
Threat for Ukraine
As of Wednesday, May 5, no cases of the Indian strain have been officially reported in Ukraine. The country's authorities decided to be proactive and from May 2 closed the border for foreigners from India.
Citizens of Ukraine, foreigners, and stateless persons who permanently/temporarily reside in the territory of Ukraine or are spouses/children of Ukrainian citizens, upon arrival from India, were obliged to undergo a two-week self-isolation, regardless of the result of PCR testing.
Considering that the Indian strain has come close to the border of Ukraine, its appearance in the country is a matter of time.
Director of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Genetics of the National Academy of Sciences Mykhailo Tukalo drew attention to the fact that very little sequencing is carried out in Ukraine.
"Perhaps this strain has not yet reached our country, but perhaps the reason is that very little sequencing is carried out in Ukraine - the study of mutations by decoding the virus genome sequence. Of course, it is necessary to establish constant monitoring and research of coronavirus strains," said Tukalo.
According to the infectious disease doctor, teacher of the School of Public Health of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy Volodymyr Kurpita, the mutant virus from India poses a much greater danger for Ukraine than the strains already existing in the country. This is, recall, British and South African.
The State Consumer Service predicts that a new strain of coronavirus may appear in the country at the end of this month.
"It is of great concern that a new strain is being registered in India and Turkey, the Indian one, which will also be in Ukraine at the end of May. Because people will return from vacations from these countries ..." Department of the State Food and Consumer Service in Kyiv notes.
The World Health Organization had previously warned that no country is safe from repeating the Indian scenario.
The WHO has urged governments in Europe not to rush to ease quarantine, because the lifting of some restrictions against the background of low vaccination coverage could lead to "a violent storm in any country."