The discovery of the South African and Brazil coronavirus variants in international returnees is an indicator that these mutations could already be circulating in the Indian population. Their high contagiousness and potential to cause re-infections and beat antibodies produced by vaccinations is a cause for worry. It signifies that social distancing measures like masking should continue to be followed strictly.
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India has been unlocking faster in the new year with colleges reopening and school students in higher grades also returning to classrooms. Mumbai, where local trains resumed full steam, is again seeing an uptick of infections. A setback to these unlocking efforts would be devastating. So emphasis should remain on compulsory masking in the days ahead.
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Though vaccination has crossed a month, progress has been slow. Efforts to reconfigure Covishield, India’s current vaccine mainstay, to meet the challenges posed by these two variants must begin immediately given trials noting the low efficacy of vaccines against the South African variant. However, WHO has suggested that the vaccine could still prevent serious illness, which is an acceptable proposition at the moment. In this context the delay in taking the vaccine to the private market, given India’s excess supply, is surprising.
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