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38 positive for mutant UK strain of coronavirus, protection from 'targeted' covaxin unclear

A healthcare worker in personal protective equipment (PPE) collects a sample using a swab from a man to conduct tests for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), at a Bus Depot in New Delhi (ANI)Premium
A healthcare worker in personal protective equipment (PPE) collects a sample using a swab from a man to conduct tests for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), at a Bus Depot in New Delhi (ANI)

The spread of the new UK variant has already been reported by Denmark, Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Sweden, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Japan, Lebanon and Singapore

New Delhi: A total of 38 samples have been found to be positive with the new mutant strain of coronavirus, first found in the United Kingdom, the government said on Monday. At least 10 samples were found to be positive in a Bengaluru laboratory, 3 in Hyderabad laboratory, 5 in Pune laboratory, 19 in Delhi laboratories and 1 in Kolkata.

“All these persons have been kept in single room isolation in designated Health Care facilities by respective State Governments. Their close contacts have also been put under quarantine. Comprehensive contact tracing has been initiated for co-travellers, family contacts and others. Genome sequencing on other specimens is going on," the union health ministry said in a statement.

“The situation is under careful watch and regular advice is being provided to the States for enhanced surveillance, containment, testing & dispatch of samples to INSACOG labs," the health ministry said.

The spread of the new UK variant has already been reported by Denmark, Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Sweden, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Japan, Lebanon and Singapore. India last year reported the presence of cases infected with the mutant strain too.

The Subject Expert Committee of Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) on Saturday granted permission for restricted emergency use of Pune based Serum Institute of India’s vaccine (Covishield), subject to multiple regulatory conditionalities and permission of restricted use in emergency situation in public interest as an abundant precaution, in clinical trial mode, especially in the context of infection by mutant strains, to covaxin of Bharat Biotech International Ltd., Hyderabad.

Public health experts have said that there is currently no evidence that the new vaccines may provide any protection. “The SARS-CoV-2 virus has been undergoing constant mutation but this new variant seems to be more virulent. It may cause additional harm as it attaches itself to the integrin of the cell leading to increased cellular inflammation and health complications. Information on the virus is limited at the moment and it is unclear if the current crop of vaccines in use and those under development will offer protection," said Professor N K Ganguly, President, Jawaharlal Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research and former Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

“The way for us to get ahead is to carry out molecular sequencing of the virus, as was done for poliovirus, to get more information on its epidemiology and spread. It is also crucial to pursue smart testing and tracing to track the spread and contain the variant at its place of origin so that it does not reach vulnerable communities," he said.

Noted Indian scientist Dr Gagandeep Kang, the vice chair, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a global non-profit aiding vaccine development platform for the covid-19 pandemic, and professor at the Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore said that it will be a stretch of say that covaxin will work against the UK strain of coronavirus.

Meanwhile 16,504 new covid-19 cases were added to the national tally in the last 24 hours. The total number of covid-19 cases as on Monday stood at 1,03, 45,118 and toll touched 1,50,858. The cumulative positivity rate of covid-19 remained 5.89% on Monday.

At least 83.90% of the new cases are concentrated in 10 States and UTs. Kerala reported the maximum daily new cases numbering 4,600 in the last 24 hours, the union health ministry said. Maharashtra recorded 3,282 new cases while West Bengal reported 896 new cases yesterday. Ten States/UTs account for 77.57% of the 214 case fatalities reported in the past 24 hours.

16.35% of new fatalities reported are from Maharashtra which reported 35 deaths. West Bengal and Kerala follow with 26 and 25 new deaths, respectively, the health ministry said. India’s total cumulative tests have crossed 17.5 Crore (17,56,35,761). Over 7,35,978 samples were tested in the last 24 hours. India’s testing infrastructure for covid-19 has over 2,299 labs across the country.

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