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New Delhi: Even as India records the highest ever surge in Covid cases, the country’s top virologists and medical experts say that new strains of coronavirus are not so dangerous as perceived by many.

“Though new strains of virus are spreading faster, causing breathlessness in more numbers, but its fatality rate is not so dangerous if compared to the previous ones,” Amulya Panda, Director of National Institute of Immunology (NII), India’s premier institute for developing vaccines, told IANS.

The NII Chief, who led a team of top scientists in developing a new protein based vaccine for Covid-19, said that as of now, the initial findings suggests that various new strains of virus could be dangerous but not more dangerous than the earlier ones.

“We cannot predict that how lethal they (Covid’s new strains) would be in near future for us…but as of now they are not so dangerous,” reiterated Panda, who is also the visiting scientist of University of California at Berkeley.

Explaining the behaviour pattern of the new coronavirus strains, Panda said, “The fundamental quality of this virus is that it keeps on mutating. For instance, just see the HIV virus. It’s been decades now but we have not been able to develop a vaccine against HIV…the reason is that HIV virus mutates on a daily basis.

Similarly the flu virus also mutates, but on a yearly basis…a reason why we have a new flu vaccine every year.”

On the efficacy of vaccines used against Covid-19, the NII Director opined, “All vaccines will be effective to much extent, even if we see new strains. Let me assure you, the vaccine is working….and it will continue to work. I feel that due to mass vaccination of people in the country, the number of critical cases is much less, if one considers the present spread of the virus.”

On triple mutants of Covid-19 traced in different states of the country, prominent radiologist Sandeep Sharma said that we need more data to find out how potent this new variant is.

“There are reports that this variant is more infectious than other variants detected as of now. But there has to be solid data to establish this fact. I can only say that as per CT scans of chest of over hundred covid positive patients seen by me in Delhi recently, condition of several of them looked serious, but not untreatable,” said Sharma, while adding,”I believe that presently the chaos is more because of initial mismanagement in containing the second wave. The numbers swelled because most of us became complacent.”

On the impact and spread of the new mutant of Covid-19 virus in India, leading microbiologist Professor Pratyush Shukla said that though it’s too early to assess but the new strain is different and a bit difficult to deal with.

“What gives hope is that vaccination(of senior citizens) has managed the situation to some extent …it’s(vaccination) definitely a successful endeavour. I feel that second wave could have been handled in a much better way,” Shukla, former General Secretary of Association of Microbiologist in India(AMI) said adding: “The bottomline is that all out efforts for prevention have to be made, meaning strict compliance of Covid protocols, primarily wearing masks.”

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