Under the new circumstances, ban on incoming flights from the UK is likely to be extended for a few more days
New Delhi: Samples of six United Kingdom returnee persons to India have been found to be positive with the new mutated variant genome of COVID-19 by the labs in NIMHANS-Bengaluru (3 samples), CCMB- Hyderabad (2) and NIV- Pune (1). Union Health Ministry officials said all these persons have been kept in single room isolation in designated health care facilities by respective state governments and their close contacts have also been put under quarantine. These are just the initial results and more cases of mutated virus detection cannot be ruled out.
Comprehensive contact tracing also has been initiated for co-travellers, family contacts and others and genome sequencing on other specimens is going on. Genome sequencing of all international passengers who have come to India in between December 9 to 22) and if symptomatic and have tested positive will be subjected to genome sequencing, in the view of new COVID strain in the UK.
Besides, all passengers who have travelled to India since November 23 are also under close watch and will be now tested in their states. The number of such passengers is about 30,000. The presence of the new UK variant of the virus has also been reported by Denmark, Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Sweden, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Japan, Lebanon and Singapore. Union Health ministry officials said “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 designated government labs. In addition, 5 per cent samples of all daily detected COVID-19 positive cases in the states and UTs will be sent for genome sequencing.
Under the new circumstances, ban on incoming flights from the UK is likely to be extended for a few more as was hinted by the union minister for Civil Aviation Mr Hardeep Singh Puri. “I foresee a short extension on this temporary suspension. I do not see the extension to be long or indefinite,” the minister said on Tuesday. The government has announced temporary suspension of all flights coming from the UK from the midnight of December 23 till December 31, 2020 along with mandatory RT-PCR testing of all UK returnee air passengers for COVID-19.
Union Health Secretary Mr Rajesh Bhushan said the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the UK is cause for concern for other nations too. However, Principal Scientific Advisor to Prime Minister Prof. K. Vijay Raghavan, said the COVID-19 vaccines will be effective against the new variant of the virus as there is “no evidence so far that they will fail to protect against new variants.”
NITI Aayog member (Health) Dr VK Paul said extra-ordinary precaution is needed at this point of time when the mutant virus has entered the country as it is a “real super spreader”, hence, there should be no parties or gatherings. “New strains like this destabilise the efforts by governments to contain virus. The UK variant of virus has travelled to several other countries and also to India, and this variant may have its own run but we have to very careful. One cannot be careless as the major population is still susceptible to COVID-19 infection in this cold weather. We have seen that it is easy to suppress the virus in beginning stage, and, we are keeping an eye on all variants,” said Dr Paul. He added the states and union territories have been given the freedom to impose night curfews and other restrictions if needed to prevent spread of virus.
It is learnt that the Republic Day parade next month too may see a curtailed crowd in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
India’s daily new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday were less than 17,000 after six months. The daily deaths are also less than 300 after 6 months. The daily new cases were 16,922 on June 25 and they were 16, 432 on Tuesday while daily deaths were 252.