Three new COVID-19 variants reported in India so far: Centre
India has reported over 240 COVID-19 infections due to three variants found in UK, Brazil & S Africa
As the COVID-19 virus is developing more genetically diverse, it’s variants are rapidly spreading across the world. Amid India’s ongoing battle to overcome the pandemic crisis, three new COVID-19 variants – from the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil – have been reported so far in the country. On Tuesday, Minister of State for Health Ashwini Choubey submitted a written reply to a query regarding the number of people infected with new virus strains in India. In the reply, he noted that more than 240 people (as of March 4) have tested positive for different COVID-19 variants in India.
He further stated that out of the three variants, the mutants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus discovered in South Africa and Brazil can potentially reinfect people who have been previously infected with the disease and recovered from it, as per the data released by the World Health Organization (WHO). However, the minister has affirmed that no case of re-infection due to mutant variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has been reported in India as of now.
The government has recognised that mutant variants of SARS-CoV-2 are leading to a surge of COVID-19 infected cases in the three countries, including the UK, Brazil and South Africa, the minister added. In this regard, the government has also revised its protocols for international travel with the aim of limiting the risk of importation and further spread of these mutant variants in the country. In February, the Centre extended the ban on international commercial flights till March 31 and introduced new guidelines for oversees passengers arriving in India.
Under the guidance of the National Center for Disease Control (NCDC), a genomic consortium of 10 regional laboratories has been set up by the Centre to conduct genomic sequencing of samples retrieved from international travelers who tested positive for mutant variants and 5 percent of the positive test samples from the community. Genome scientists across the country are also analyzing two variants found in test samples in states like Maharashtra and Telangana which are observing a significant rise in COVID-19 infections.
“We are collecting more samples from the field to investigate whether the two variants have any link with the surge. We cannot be complacent,” NCDC Director Dr. Sujeet Kumar Singh said.
International travelers who are testing positive for COVID-19 variants are being kept in special isolation wards till the time they test negative. At the same time, people coming in close contact with the positive cases are also being kept under institutional quarantine until they test negative. On Wednesday, Delhi reported its first positive COVID-19 case caused by the South African mutant variant. The 33-year-old patient is currently admitted to Delhi’s LNJP Hospital.
Meanwhile, the Indian government is carrying out the vaccination program in full swing. As per a recent report of the Union Health Ministry, more than 30 million people have been inoculated across India, with over 31 million doses administered so far.