5 from Mumbai, 1 from Pune, Thane, Mira Bhayandar Test +ve for UK Strain as 38 Indians Get Infected

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A total of 38 people have tested positive for the new UK variant of SARS-CoV-2 in India so far, the Union Health Ministry said on Monday. These include the 29 cases which were announced till Friday.

All these people have been kept in single room isolation in designated healthcare facilities by respective state governments and their close contacts have also been put under quarantine, the ministry said.

Of the 38, the mutated UK strain was detected in eight samples at National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), New Delhi, 11in theInstitute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), Delhi, one in the National Institute of Biomedical Genomics (NIBMG), Kalyani (near Kolkata), five in the National Institute of Virology in Pune, three in Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB)in Hyderabad and 10 were sequenced at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences Hospital (NIMHANS),Bengaluru.

Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope on Monday evening informed that five UK returnees from Mumbai, one each from Pune, Thane and Mira Bhayandar have tested positive for the new strain.

The NCBS, InSTEM in Bengaluru, CDFD in Hyderabad, ILS in Bhubaneswar and NCCS in Pune have so far found no UK mutant virus, the ministry said. "A total of 38 samples have been found to be positive with the new UK variant genome," the ministry said.

It said comprehensive contact tracing has been initiated for co-travellers, family contacts and others. Genome sequencing on other specimens is going on, it added. "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 ministry stated.

The positive COVID-19samples are being tested at 10 INSACOG labs (NIBMG Kolkata, ILS Bhubaneswar, NIV Pune, NCCS Pune, CCMB Hyderabad, CDFD Hyderabad, InSTEM Bengaluru, NIMHANS Bengaluru, IGIB Delhi and NCDC Delhi) for genome sequencing. The presence of the newUKvariant has already been reported by Denmark, Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Sweden, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Japan, Lebanon and Singapore.

The government of India took cognizance of the reports of virus reported from theUKand put in place a proactive and preventive strategy to detect and contain the mutant variant, it said. This strategy includes temporary suspension of all flights coming from the UK witheffectfromthemidnightofDecember23 till January 7 and mandatory testing of allUK-returned air passengers through RT-PCR test.

The samples of allUKreturnees found positive in RT-PCR test will be genome sequenced by a consortium of 10 government labs – INSACOG. Further, all the international passengers who have arrived in India between December 9 to 22, if symptomatic and tested positive for COVID-19, will be subjected to genome sequencing as part of the Centre's strategyto detect the mutatedUKvariant in them.

Others will be followed up by the respective state and district surveillance officers and will be tested as per ICMR guidelines (even if asymptomatic)between fifth and tenth day, according to the Union Health Ministry's guidance document on genomic sequencing. Further, epidemiological surveillance of the passengers, who have arrived in India since November 23 will be conducted in the community through active follow up. Besides, standard operating protocol for states and UTs to tackle the mutant variant of SARS-CoV-2 was issued on December 22.