India has recorded 14 fresh cases of new coronavirus mutant strain first reported in the United Kingdom in September, taking the total number of cases to 20, news agency PTI reported. The tally includes six people who were found positive for the new virus strain on Tuesday.
The ministry said the mutated UK strain was detected in eight samples at the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), one at the National Institute of Biomedical Genomics (NIBMG), Kalyani (near Kolkata), one at the National Institute of Virology (NIV) Pune, seven at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences Hospital (NIMHANS) Bengaluru, two at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad and one at the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), Delhi.
“All these persons have been kept in single-room isolation in designated health care facilities by respective state governments. Their close contacts have also been put under quarantine. Comprehensive contact tracing has been initiated for co-travellers, family contacts, and others. Genome sequencing on other specimens is going on,” the Health Ministry said.
Experts have suggested that the vaccines developed against the novel coronavirus would remain effective despite the emergence of the new strain. However, they cautioned that injudicious use of unproven therapies against Covid-19 puts “immune pressure” on the virus, which can lead to mutations.
The presence of the new UK Variant has already been reported by Denmark, Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Sweden, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Japan, Lebanon and Singapore.
Last week, India announced the suspension of flights from and to UK until the end of the year. The Civil Aviation Ministry took the decision on the basis of a recommendation by the Health Ministry, which noted that the new UK strain of the novel coronavirus is “spreading and growing rapidly”.
Around 33,000 passengers had landed in various Indian airports from the UK between November 25 and December 23, when flights to and from that country were stopped. “All these passengers are being tracked and subjected by states to RT-PCR tests. So far, only 114 have been found positive [for all variants of the virus],” the Ministry said.
All samples from UK returnees that test positive in RT-PCR tests will be put through genome sequencing, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan told reporters. Also, as part of extensive surveillance, 5 per cent of positive samples in the general population of the country will also be subjected to genome sequencing, Bhushan said.