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6 UK returnees test positive for new coronavirus mutation


Six cases of a more infectious strain of the coronavirus have been found in people arriving from the United Kingdom, the government said on Tuesday, before leading experts called for “extraordinary precautions” and top officials indicated a ban on flights in the United Kingdom. UK could be extended. more to stop the spread of the mutation.

All six infected people were now isolated, the Health Ministry said in a statement, adding that their fellow travelers and close contacts were being traced. At least one of them, 47-year-old Mary Winfred Ann Parrie, left the quarantine facility at Delhi airport after landing and took a train to Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh before she was located.

In total, the government has identified more than 30,000 people who returned from the UK to monitor infections, but the effort has been complicated by many revealing inaccurate contact details.

Read also | States struggle to locate hundreds of UK returnees

“UK data confirms that it is more transmittable. The variant is spreading there very quickly and displacing other variants. This is very important globally because increased transmission will increase the number of infected people and therefore the number of severe cases. That is why we must take extraordinary precautions, ”said K VijayRaghavan, the government’s chief scientific adviser (PSA), while adding that the mutations seen in the variant do not appear to be such that they render current coronavirus vaccines ineffective.

6 UK returnees test positive for new coronavirus mutation

Hours earlier, the Union Ministry of Health confirmed that genomic tests had found the new variant, currently known as VOC-202012/01, in three samples at the Hospital of the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience (Nimhans) in Bengaluru, in two at the Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad and in one at the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune.

Later, state officials revealed that three of these people were from Karnataka and one from Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh. “All of these people have been kept in single room isolation in health care facilities designated by the respective state governments and their close contacts have also been quarantined,” the union ministry said.

First detected in London and Kent in mid-September, the variant was identified by UK authorities as a cause for concern on December 14. They later revealed evidence that it appeared to be more transmissible and was behind an increase in cases in the country’s capital. as well as its southeast.

The variant has 23 changes in its genome, eight of which appear to influence the spike protein that the pathogen uses to adhere to host cells. Some of the other changes could make it more adept at infecting susceptible cells and possibly even evading some immune response, although detailed studies are underway.

In a preliminary assessment published late on Monday, UK scientists estimated that VOC-202012/01 caused no more deaths or hospitalizations, but did cause markedly more secondary infections than the previous variant.

“The vaccines will work against the new variants. They help develop a wide range of neutralizing antibodies, so the entire repertoire of protective antibodies that is being created with the current set of vaccines is sufficient to address current virus variations, “said VijayRaghavan.

A second leading expert, Niti Aayog (Health) member VK Paul, said that significant mutations like the new variant could affect infection control efforts. “This can destabilize the systems of India and the world. This particular strain can have its own journey, therefore we have to be very careful, “he said, while urging people not to lower their guard during New Year celebrations.

“Remember that it is easy to suppress a new virus at first because the chain of transmission is smaller,” he added.

Both officials described various steps the government was taking to deal with the new threat. These include regular testing of a proportion of positive samples by a new consortium of government laboratories called Insacog and aggressive testing and tracing activities for those who returned from the UK, as well as anyone else who comes across the new strain.

Paul and VijayRaghavan were part of the weekly government briefing on the Covid-19 situation in the country. The union’s health secretary, Rajesh Bhushan, opened the briefing, the last of the year, highlighting the figures that reflect that the outbreak is decreasing in the country. “The cumulative positivity rate is now 6.02% and over the last week it has dropped to 2.25%,” he said.

To protect these achievements, the public will need to keep its guard up, officials reiterated.

“The numbers show a steady decline, which is very reassuring. This is particularly because several nations are facing a devastating situation and that is also a very sobering time for all of us, ”said Paul, urging people not to celebrate big New Years parties as“ they can become events of great diffusion ”.

Experts said there aren’t many changes in terms of how the disease is managed, based on what is known about the UK variant. “It was always likely (a new strain). Nothing changes in terms of what we have to do. The usual precautions will also work well for this variant, ”said Dr Anurag Agrawal, Director of CSIR, Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, New Delhi.

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