The Union Health Ministry on Wednesday announced that so far 20 people who returned from the United Kingdom have tested positive for the new UK variant of the Coronavirus. The number includes the six who were found positive for the new virus strain on Tuesday. Among those found infected by the new strain is a woman who had managed to give the authorities in New Delhi the slip and had reached Andhra Police by train before being picked up. Around 33,000 passengers arrived from the UK between November 25 and December 23, and of them, 114 have tested Covid positive.
A temporary ban on flights connecting to the United Kingdom could be extended beyond the current December 31. On Tuesday, the Union Health Ministry announced that the two-day dry run of the Covid-19 vaccination drive had concluded smoothly.
The dry run was conducted in Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh, Rajkot and Gandhinagar in Gujarat, Ludhiana and Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar (Nawanshahr) in Punjab, and Sonitpur and Nalbari districts in Assam. With the success of the dry run, the next step for the health ministry is to clear a Covid-19 vaccine and begin the vaccination drive next year.
The central government is optimistic that the Covid-19 vaccine will work against the new Covid-19 variant. Prof K Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Advisor (PSA) to the Government of India, has said that there is no evidence that the vaccines will fail against the new strain.
“Vaccines will work against the new Coronavirus variant detected in South Africa and the United Kingdom. There is no evidence that the current vaccines will fail to protect against the new variants," Raghavan said at a news conference. He added, however, that the UK variant of Covid-19 is more transmissible. He also said that change in variants isn’t enough to make the vaccines ineffective. “Vaccines help our immune system in producing a wide range of antibodies. Changes in the variants are not sufficient in making the vaccine ineffective,” he said.
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 from September to October. After winning accolades for flattening the curve, Kerala saw a steep spike after the Onam celebrations in August.