India says COVID-19 virus variants not behind upsurge in cases in two states

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India said on Tuesday mutated versions of coronavirus were not responsible for an upsurge in cases in two states, a potential relief for a country where mask-wearing and social distancing have largely disappeared.

Maharashtra in the west and Kerala in the south account for 75 percent of India’s current active cases of about 147,000, and both states have seen a sudden rise in new infections in recent days, raising calls for a faster roll-out of vaccines.

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India has reported a total of more than 11 million cases — the most in the world after the United States — and about 156,000 deaths. Actual infections have inched closer to 300 million in the country of 1.35 billion people, according to a random study of antibodies done by the government.

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A top government health official confirmed the long-time presence of two mutants — N440K and E484Q — in those two states as well as elsewhere in the country and abroad…

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