Dr Khan examines what we know so far about the new variant.
India on Wednesday reported a record 115,736 new coronavirus infections, taking the total to more than 12.8 million cases, data from the health ministry showed.
The death toll in the world’s third-worst-hit nation after the United States and Brazil reached 166,177, including 630 new fatalities, the most in four days.
On Monday, India reported more than 100,000 cases for the first time since the pandemic began last year. Nearly 97,000 cases were registered on Tuesday.
With cases continuing to surge in many parts of the country, authorities have announced strict restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.
On Tuesday, the capital New Delhi imposed a night curfew from 10pm to 5am until April 30, with only essential services or people travelling to and from vaccination centres allowed on the streets.
The Delhi regional government said the “sudden increase in COVID-19 cases” and “high positivity rate” meant a night curfew was needed.
Maharashtra state, home to India’s financial hub Mumbai, has also introduced similar restrictions, including night curfews and a weekend lockdown.
The state on Wednesday reported more than 55,000 new coronavirus cases – almost half of the total cases reported.
“The pandemic isn’t over and there is no scope for complacency,” Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Twitter, urging people to get “vaccinated on your turn and follow COVID-appropriate behaviour scrupulously!”
The Indian government has so far shied away from a repeat of the nationwide restrictions imposed in March last year – one of the world’s toughest lockdowns – as it seeks to revive the country’s devastated economy.
Vinod K Paul, a member of the government advisory body NITI Aayog, said late on Tuesday during a health briefing that the next four weeks would be very critical for the country.
Single-day infections have been rising since early February, when they had fallen to below 9,000.
The country has recorded more than 549,000 cases in the last seven days – an increase of 40 percent compared with the previous week, according to data compiled by the AFP news agency.
Brazil recorded just under 440,000 cases and the US reported just over 453,000, both decreasing from the previous week.
India’s health ministry on Tuesday said more than 83 million vaccination shots have been administered as part of an ambitious drive to inoculate 300 million people by the end of July.
Delhi has meanwhile ordered one-third of all its vaccination sites at government hospitals to open around the clock to speed up the pace of inoculation.
But many states have criticised the federal government as India, the world’s biggest vaccine maker, has restricted its immunisation drive to front-line workers and people aged over 45 years.
States like Odisha have also flagged shortages of supplies even for the prioritised groups.