Gujarat:Four UK returnees detected with new coronavirus strain

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(Eds: Adding quotes and background) Ahmedabad, Jan 2 (PTI) Four persons who recently returned to Gujarat from the United Kingdom (UK) have tested positive for the new strain of coronavirus, a top state health department official said on Saturday.

Results of the 15 samples that had tested positive for coronavirus on arrival in Ahmedabad from the UK are currently pending with the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune, the official added.

'All the passengers who had reached Ahmedabad from the UK were screened, and the samples of those who had tested positive for coronavirus were sent to the NIV. We have received intimation that the UK strain of coronavirus has been detected in four such cases,' Principal Secretary (Health), Jayanti Ravi told reporters.

Ravi said all the four patients have been kept in 'special isolators' at the SVP Hospital in Ahmedabad as per the Centre's guidelines.

'Results of the 15 samples tested positive for coronavirus on arrival in Ahmedabad are pending with the NIV,' she added.

Ravi further said, 'Passengers sitting in flights in three rows ahead and three rows behind of the passengers who have tested positive for coronavirus have been identified through contact tracing and are kept under observation and isolated. Health teams are following up with screening of these passengers on a regular basis'.

She said the infectivity of the UK coronavirus mutant is much higher though there is no evidence regarding its virulence.

Responding to a query, Ravi said the treatment protocol for the patients detected with the new coronavirus strain and other positive patients is similar.

'Contacts of all UK returnees who have been kept in isolation are being tested through RT-PCR test after a gap of one week,' she said.

The state health department had last week said that 12 out of1,720 passengers who arrived in Gujarat from theUKand other European countries between November 25 and December 23, tested positive for coronavirus.

Samples of these patients --11 of whom tested positive for the virus between December 9 and 23 -- were sent to the NIV Pune and Gujarat Biological Research Centre in Gandhinagar for genome mapping to determine whether they were carrying the mutated variant, the department had said.

India suspended flights to and from the UK from December 23 in view of the rapid spread of the new viral strain, that was first detected there in September. PTI KA PD NSK NSK