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the coronavirus crisis

India's surging COVID-19 outbreak includes new 'double mutant' variant

India's health ministry reported 103,558 new COVID-19 cases Monday, making India the second country to top 100,000 new cases in a single day. The other country to hit that level, the U.S, recorded more than 200,000 cases a day through much of December. India is inoculating more than 2 million people a day, but with 1.3 billion people, that works out to only 5 percent of its population getting a first dose of vaccine. India, a major vaccine manufacturing hub, slowed down exports of vaccine to focus on immunizing its population.

The epicenter of India's outbreak is Maharashtra state, home to Mumbai, which reported 57,074 new cases Sunday and ordered weekend lockdowns and nightly curfews in response. Some public health experts blame the mounting cases on erosion of the immunity acquired from previous infections, changed behavior, and deadlier and more contagious new variants. About 20 percent of new cases in Maharashtra have been found to include a new "double mutant" variant, which includes the E484Q and L452R mutations, according to India's health ministry.

Louisiana State University virologist Dr. Jeremy Kamil told BBC News he doesn't think the new double variant is more deadly or necessarily more transmissible. India's government says the variants are probably not responsible for the sharp rise in cases.