Doctors and experts with INSACOG said that cases of COVID's Omicron BA.2.75 variant are rising across the country, even as India reported 12,000 fresh cases on Wednesday, 18 August.
Delhi also recorded a sharp rise in case numbers in the past three weeks, with upwards of 1,000 fresh COVID-19 cases being reported every day. The capital also recorded 52 deaths in one week, with a positivity rate over 18 percent - the highest since January 2022, reports said.
INSACOG, which was established to monitor the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in India has said that BA.2.75 is the dominant strain in many parts of India at present, and that it shows signs of quick transmission and breakthrough infections even in people who have been fully vaccinated.
The Delhi government has advised that people get the booster dose of the vaccine.
So what do you need to know about COVID Omicron's BA.2.75 strain?
Where was the variant first found?
COVID Omicron's BA.2.75 strain was first recorded in Maharashtra in May 2022.
Nicknamed 'Centaurus' the WHO, released a video acknowledging the new subvariant on 6 July.
Soumya Swaminathan, the WHO's chief scientist said, "This variant seems to have some mutations on the receptor binding domain of the spike protein...we have to watch that."
In July, the subvariant was detected in as many as 11 countries. This number has risen to over 20 countries in August.
Apart from India, these include the UK, the US, Germany, Japan, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
How is BA.2.75 different from previous strains of COVID?
According to epidemiologist Dr Shay Fleishon, "this is a 2nd generation for BA.2, saltation of 16 mutations, 8 are in S (4 in NTD, 4 in RBD including a reversion)."
According to researchers at Bloom Lab, a lab studying molecular evolution of proteins and viruses in the US, the subvariant has two major mutations of G446S and R493Q.
Bloom Lab adds, "G446S is at one of most potent sites of escape from antibodies elicited by current vaccines that still neutralises BA.2."
They go on to add that although R493Q is not a major antigenic mutation, it does enable G446S, and increases BA.2.75's affinity to ACE2- the protein that hooks onto and infects human cells.
If you're vaccinated are you safe from BA.2.75?
Experts believe that the rise in cases could be an indication that BA.2.75 has vaccine-escaping properties.
Senior virologist Dr Gagandeep Kang, in a statement to Moneycontrol, said that the rise in cases could be because BA.2.75 escapes the immune response just enough to infect people. He adds, however, that since the infection severity is not too high, it should not be a cause for worry.
However, he adds, that those with comorbidities and other vulnerable groups like the elderly, should get the booster dose of the COVID vaccine if not already done.