South Africa variant of coronavirus not found in India till now: Govt

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New Delhi, Feb 9 (PTI) There is no evidence of the presence of the South Africa variant of the coronavirus in India as of Monday but the government is keeping a watch on it, said NITI Aayog member (Health) Dr V K Paul on Tuesday.

According to scientists, this variant of the virus spreads faster, he said.

About the effectiveness of the Covishield vaccine on the South Africa strain, Paul said it is hinted through a study, which has its limitations, that Covishield gives minimal protection against mild infection but it still continues to be effective against severe disease and in reducing mortality.

'We have no concern at this moment as we have a system in place for detecting this variant. As of yesterday, this particular variant is not in the country but we are keeping a watch,' he said, adding surveillance will be intensified.

From the COVID-19 pandemic point of view, consistent gains are being made in terms of declining new cases and new deaths, Paul said.

He, however, noted that the last national serosurvey findings have shown that over 70 per cent of the population are still susceptible to the disease and stressed on achieving herd immunity through vaccination.

Underscoring both Covishield and Covaxin vaccines are 'superbly safe', Paul urged healthcare and frontline workers who have not yet taken the shots to get themselves vaccinated.

Covishield, manufactured by Serum Institute of India, and Covaxin of Bharat Biotech have been approved for restricted emergency use in the country by India's drugs regulator.

Shared his views on the progress of the nationwide COVID-19 vaccination programme, Paul said, 'We can confidently say that the strategy to implement the vaccination programme and the experience of vaccination is now very highly rated by people.' PTI PLB UZM NSD NSD