India detects six cases of mutant virus as returnees from the UK test positive

Felipe Esquivel Reed, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Six passengers who had arrived in India from the UK tested positive for the mutant strain of the novel coronavirus on Tuesday. The Union Health Ministry said three patients were in Bengaluru, two in Hyderabad and one in Pune. All the patients are in isolation in private single rooms at state government facilities.

“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 government said in a statement. This new variant speculated to have been birthed in the UK has so far been detected in Denmark, Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Sweden, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Japan, Lebanon and Singapore. 

With more than 10 million cases, India is the second-worst affected by the virus after the United States. Nearly 150,000 people died in the world’s second-most population nation. On Tuesday 16,432 new cases of the virus were registered, a sharp drop from nearly hundred thousand cases a day back in September. 

While The Indian government has banned all flights to and from the UK until 31 December, it also issued a new standard operating procedure, wherein the government will conduct genome sequencing of all covid-19 positive passengers arriving from the UK between Monday and Wednesday to determine whether they have been infected by the new strain of the virus found there.

India, the world’s biggest vaccine manufacturer, wants to start inoculating its citizens next month and is also considering emergency-use authorisation applications for vaccines made by Pfizer and local company Bharat Biotech. Being the second-most populous country in the world, it will be a huge step forward in the battle against the pandemic. 

WHO experts have assured that so far, based on their research they have inferred that while this new mutant spreads faster, it is not more dangerous and it will not affect the upcoming vaccines. 

“The situation is under careful watch and regular advice is being provided to the states for enhanced surveillance, containment, testing and dispatch of samples to Insacog labs,” the health ministry statement said.