Why ‘double mutant’ COVID-19 variant in India may be less scary than it might seem

Coronavirus
An Indian woman in personal protective suit walks towards a COVID-19 ward of a hospital as others waits for their test results in Hyderabad, India, Thursday, April 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)

An Indian woman in personal protective suit walks towards a COVID-19 ward of a hospital as others waits for their test results in Hyderabad, India, Thursday, April 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)

The so-called “double mutant” variant first identified in India can sound frightening at first glance.

But as more data are studied, some scientists say India’s catastrophic COVID-19 surge this spring has less to do with this variant and more to do with the government’s premature lifting of pandemic rules too quickly when only a tiny fraction of India’s population had been vaccinated.

The finding, primarily based on an interview with UC San Francisco infectious diseases expert Dr. Monica Gandhi, explains why she and some other scientists suspect the new variant, B.1.617, is not the central reason behind India’s catastrophic surge this spring.

Rather, it was the wholesale abandonment of the relatively successful lockdown policy that, last year, spared the nation from the kind of death toll India is experiencing now. Last year’s lockdown was damaging economically and politically, and poor urban areas — like the slums in Mumbai — were hit hard by the virus. But middle- and upper-class areas were spared last year, and political leaders marveled at what they called a success.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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