No need to panic, new mutant virus doesn’t kill more: Officials

Our Bureau | | Updated on: Dec 22, 2020
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Surveillance against UK strain intensified at all airports

The new strain of the SARS-CoV2 virus discovered in the UK maybe more contagious, but doesn’t seem to be causing higher mortality or increasing case fatality rate, said Vinod K Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog.

Besides, scientific studies haven’t so far shown that the vaccines in development in India or elsewhere will not be effective against this new mutation, he said while briefing the media. “So, there will not be any change in the current Covid-19 treatment guidelines. To the best of our knowledge, this strain increases transmissibility, but it does not increase the propensity for deaths or hospitalisation or severity of the disease,” he added.

SOP for testing

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry on Tuesday released Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for testing, tracing and isolating suspected Covid-19 cases, specifically from the UK by making RT-PCR tests compulsory for passengers coming from the UK or transiting through the UK. The government has already suspended flights from the UK till December 31 or till further orders.

Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri was quoted as saying that about 2,200-2,400 passengers travel to India daily through flights originating from the UK, depending upon how full these flights are. He also said that at least eight passengers who came since the SOP was put in place tested positive for Covid-19 and their samples were sent for specific genomic analysis to see whether the causative agency was the new mutant strain of the virus reported in the UK.

According to the sources, two flights from the UK had landed at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport – one Air India and one British Airways – since Monday. There were a total of five suspected cases – all came through the AI flight.

Similarly, three UK flights landed at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Mumbai International Airport on Monday, but no flights originated from the UK on Tuesday, a statement said.

The number of air passengers arriving in Mumbai from the UK with suspected infection of mutant coronavirus has risen to 15. According to the information shared by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, three flights have arrived from the UK with 590 passengers. Out of the 590 passengers, 299 have been sent to hotels within the city, which have been designated as quarantine centres.

Meanwhile, in Chennai, one passenger who arrived from the UK via Delhi tested positive for Covid. The sample collected from him has been sent to the National Institute of Virology, Pune, to identify if it is the new strain of virus spreading in the UK.

(With inputs from Chennai and Mumbai Bureaus)

Published on December 23, 2020

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