4 detected with SA variant of COVID-19 in India, one with Brazil strain

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New Delhi, Feb 16 (PTI) Four people were detected with the South Africa variant of SARS-CoV-2 in India in January, while one tested positive for the Brazil variant in the first week of February, the Centre said on Tuesday.

In India, the South Africa strain has been detected in four returnees -- one from Angola, one from Tanzania and two from South Africa in January, ICMR Director General Balram Bhargava said.

All travellers and contacts have been tested and quarantined.

'The ICMR-NIV is attempting to isolate and culture the SA variant strain from the samples of these four individual returnees,' he said.

One Brazil returnee has tested positive for the Brazil variant of SARS-CoV-2 in the first week of February. The traveller and contacts have been tested and quarantined.

'The virus strain has been successfully isolated and cultured at ICMR-NIV, Pune,' Bhargava said, adding experiments to assess vaccine effectiveness are underway.

Meanwhile, the number of people who have tested positive for the UK variant of SARS-CoV-2 in the country has climbed to 187. There has been no mortality.

'We have been able to culture and isolate this strain and test the efficacy of the vaccine,' he said.

A very close watch is being kept on these variants, he stressed.

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said as of February 16 till 1 pm, 87,40,595 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the country out of which a total of 62,82,646 healthcare workers have been vaccinated.

First dose has been given to 61,11,968 (60.5 per cent healthcare workers) and second dose have been given to 1,70,678 healthcare workers which is 37.5 per cent of eligible vaccinations, he said.

Bhushan elaborated that the eligible population are people who were vaccinated on January 16, 17 and 18 as only they become eligible for the second dose.

'For others, the second dose is not due. The efficacy of a vaccination must be judged on the fact that what proportion of people were due for second dose and out of that how much population has been covered,' he said.

He further said a total of 24,57,949 frontline workers have been vaccinated which is 26.3 per cent.

Bhushan said 14 states and UTs have administered the first dose to more than 70 per cent of registered healthcare workers which is higher than the national average of 60 per cent.

These states include Rajasthan (70.09 per cent), Sikkim (70.09 per cent), Jharkhand (71.25 per cent), Kerala (71.28 per cent), UP (73.58 per cent), Madhya Pradesh (75.16 per cent) and Bihar (80.92 per cent).

While 11 states ad UTs including Delhi (42.36 per cent), Punjab (36.42 per cent), Andhra Pradesh (49.09 per cent) and Karnataka (49.96 per cent), have administered first dose to less than 50 per cent of registered healthcare workers.

'We have asked these states to organise more sessions to increase their coverage,' he said.

About the second dose, Bhushan said eight states and UTs, including Goa (100 per cent), Jharkhand (68.3 per cent), Assam (69.7 per cent), UP (81.2 per cent), Gujarat (86 per cent), have administered th second COVID vaccine dose to more than 60 per cent of the eligible healthcare workers. PTI PLB UZM AAR AAR