20 more people contract new coronavirus strain, tally reaches 58
On Tuesday, the Union Health Ministry said that 20 more people have tested positive for the new strain of coronavirus that was detected in the United Kingdom. With this, the tally has swelled to 58. All those who tested positive either returned from the UK or came in close contact with someone who did. Their samples were examined at INSACOG labs, which were created to monitor mutations.
What is known about the new strain?
The UK variant of the virus has about 20 mutations, including many that impact how the virus infects human cells. Experts believe that this variant is 70% more transmissible, meaning that it can infect more people, eventually increasing the pressure on healthcare systems. However, in what qualifies as good news, vaccines haven't been declared ineffective against this variant.
India decided to examine positive samples of all international passengers
After the new variant emerged, India joined the list of countries to suspend travel to and from the UK. The country also released new standard operating procedures (SOPs), which were first restricted to travelers coming from the UK but later extended to all international passengers. The government decided to conduct genome sequencing on positive samples of all those who landed in India between December 9 and December 22.
Close contacts of infected persons put under quarantine
The government ordered that those who contract the new variant will have to remain in isolation in single rooms at designated healthcare facilities. The same protocol was followed for the 20 people who tested positive recently. "Their close contacts have also been put under quarantine. Comprehensive contact tracing has been initiated for co-travelers, family contacts, and others," the government revealed.
Ministry claimed the situation is being watched carefully
"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 Union Health Ministry added, as per HT.
Australia, Italy, Denmark also reported new variant; England locked down
Besides India, the new variant has been detected in Denmark, Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Sweden, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Japan, Lebanon, and Singapore. On Monday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a complete lockdown in England, saying that the new variant was spreading at an alarming rate. For every day in the last seven days, the country has reported over 50,000 new coronavirus cases.
Johnson's directions, which affects nearly 56 million people in England, came after Chief Medical Officers of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland claimed the battle against coronavirus has entered level 5, meaning that healthcare services will be overwhelmed if no immediate action is taken. While the PM imposed new curbs, he is also hopeful that this is the last leg of the battle against COVID-19.