14 more cases of new coronavirus strain in India

20 UK returnees in India have new coronavirus strain

This includes results of the six who tested positive and were announced to have the new strain on Tuesday

Representative image. Credit: DH Photo

A total of 20 people in India now have the new coronavirus strain, according to ministry data on Wednesday.

This includes results of the six who tested positive and were announced to have the new strain on Tuesday. The samples that tested positive for the new strain were 8 from NCDC, Delhi; 7 from NIMHANS, Bengaluru; 2 from CCMB, Hyderabad; 1 from NIBG Kalyani near Kolkata; 1 from NIV, Pune and 1 from IGIB, Delhi.

A network of 10 laboratories has been set up to carry out the genetic sequencing of not only those who returned from the UK but also 5% of other RT-PCR positive samples to detect other mutations of the virus that may be circulating in India.

The ministry on Tuesday said six UK returnees were found positive for the mutated UK variant genome and that all these people have been kept in single room isolation at designated health care facilities by respective state governments and their close contacts have also been put under quarantine.

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"Comprehensive contact tracing has been initiated for co-travellers, family contacts and others. Genome sequencing on other specimens is going on.

"The situation is under careful watch and regular advice is being provided to the states for enhanced surveillance, containment, testing and dispatch of samples to INSACOG labs," the ministry had said.

While those who have tested positive with the new strain on Tuesday would have to stay at government isolation facilities for the next 28 days, efforts are on to track down nearly 33,000 individuals who came back from the UK between November 25 and December 23 so that they and their contacts can be screened for the new strain, which according to the WHO is 40%-70% more transmissible than the strains circulating currently.

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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.

The Government of India took cognizance of the reports of the virus reported from the UK and put in place a proactive and preventive strategy to detect and contain the mutant variant, the ministry said.

This strategy includes temporary suspension of all flights coming from the UK with effect from the midnight of December 23 till December 31 and mandatory testing of all UK-returned air passengers through RT-PCR test. The samples of all UK returnees found positive in RT-PCR test will be genome sequenced by a consortium of 10 government labs i.e. INSACOG.

Also, a meeting of the National Task Force (NTF) on Covid-19 was held on December 26 to consider and recommend testing, treatment, surveillance and containment strategy.

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Besides, standard operating protocol for states and UTs to tackle the mutant variant of SARS-CoV-2 was issued on December 22.

The entire issue was examined at length by the NTF on December 26 and the NTF concluded that there is no need to change either the existing National Treatment Protocol or existing testing protocols in view of the mutant variant.

The NTF also recommended that in addition to the existing surveillance strategy, it is critical to conduct enhanced genomic surveillance, the ministry had said. 

(With PTI inputs)