India has recorded six new cases of the mutant coronavirus, reported in returnees from the United Kingdom, news agency ANI reported. The samples were tested and found positive at NIMHANS, Bengaluru, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, and National Institute of Virology, Pune. Further details are awaited.
The presence of the new UK variant has already been reported by Denmark, the Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Sweden, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Japan, Lebanon and Singapore, so far. The Centre said that from November 25 to December 23 midnight, about 33,000 passengers disembarked at various Indian airports from the UK. All these passengers are being tracked and subjected by states and UTs to RT-PCR tests. So far 114 have been found positive for COVID-19. These positive samples have been sent to 10 INSACOG labs (NIBMG Kolkata, ILS Bhubaneswar, NIV Pune, CCS Pune, CCMB Hyderabad, CDFD Hyderabad, InSTEM Bengaluru, NIMHANS Bengaluru, IGIB Delhi, NCDC Delhi) for genome sequencing.
More than 40 countries, including India, have banned travel to and from the UK, a move made in view of the rapid spread of the new viral strain, VUI-202012/0, that was detected on September 21. Experts have said that there is no indication that vaccines would be ineffective against the new strain.
India had put in place a robust surveillance system against the mutant coronavirus, which has been reported to possess massively higher transmission capabilities, first reported in the UK. A strategy has been put under place under which all passengers who had arrived from the UK between December 21 and 23 have been tested at the airports and only after the PCR test results are available, the negative passengers are permitted to exit the airports.
All positively tested passengers are put under institutional isolation and their samples sent for Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS). Only after the confirmation of the non-mutant variant upon WGS result, the positive cases are permitted to leave institutional isolation as per the existing management protocol. All the contacts of the positive cases are also put under facility quarantine and are tested as per the ICMR guidelines.
Besides, the list of all UK arrivals during the last 28 days has been shared by the Bureau of Immigration with the states concerned. All passengers who had arrived from the UK between November 25-December 20, 2020, are being tracked by the IDSP State Surveillance Units (SSUs) and District Surveillance Units (DSUs).
Samples of all positive cases are being sent for WGS and enhanced contact tracing of these positive cases is being undertaken and these contacts are also put under facility quarantine.