The country on Tuesday reported that the new strain of coronavirus has been found in India with samples of six UK returnees testing positive for the Britain variant — three samples in Bengaluru’s NIMHANS, two in Hyderabad’s CCMB and one in Pune’s NIV. The new strain, which was first reported in the United Kingdom a couple of days ago, is believed to be 70 per cent more infectious. However, doctors have said that there is no reason yet to believe that it is more lethal or will not be controlled by a vaccine.
All six patients have been kept in single-room isolation in designated healthcare facilities by respective state governments, while those who have come into close contact with patients have been placed under quarantine. Around 33,000 passengers arrived from the UK between November 25 and December 23 and of them, 114 have tested positive for the virus. On December 21, days after the detection of the new strain, India banned flights from the UK.
In a statement, the Ministry of Home Affairs said it has issued fresh guidelines for surveillance concerning Covid 19 that will remain in force till January 31 as it asked states and union territories to keep a strict vigil to prevent any rise in cases during the New Year celebrations and winter season.
Meanwhile, Kerala is on high alert as 18 people who came to Kerala from the UK have tested Covid positive. Samples have been sent to the National Institute of Virology in Pune for testing to determine if the infection is due to the new strain. Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja while addressing the media on Sunday said that a mild mutation of the coronavirus has been noticed in Kerala and that research about it was on.
“The research is being conducted in Kozhikode. There have been mutations in coronavirus. In the UK, coronavirus mutation strains have been confirmed and eight from Britain have tested positive for Covid-19. Detailed tests are being conducted,” she said. The discovery of the mutation came amid eight passengers who arrived from the UK testing positive for Covid-19.
The first state to report a Covid-19 case in the country in January, Kerala has since had a full-blown second wave with daily cases going beyond the 10,000-mark on several days during September to October. After winning accolades for flattening the curve, Kerala saw a steep spike after the Onam celebrations in August.
While India has reported a decline in new Covid-19 infections across states, the infection is getting only worse in the southern state of Kerala. The state recorded 3,047 new Covid-19 cases on Monday, and while testing has seen a drop in numbers, the Test Positivity Rate has been steady throughout, pointing to an increase in infection.