Coronavirus: 22 who returned to India from UK test positive
At least 22 people who returned to India from the United Kingdom in the past few days have tested positive for COVID-19. The UK has reported a new strain of the coronavirus which, authorities say, can be as much as 70% more infectious. Samples from the passengers who tested positive will now be tested for the mutated strain, as per government protocol.
11 among 22 tested positive in Delhi
Among the 22 people who came from or via the UK and tested positive, 11 tested positive in Delhi, eight in Amritsar, two in Kolkata, and one in Chennai, authorities said, according to NDTV. All UK returnees over the past two days have been subjected to RT-PCR tests. Those who tested positive are to undergo another test for genome sequencing of the virus.
Mutated strain detected in some countries; India safe so far
The UK has reported a mutated strain of the coronavirus, which has since been detected in Australia, Denmark, Italy, South Africa, etc. On Tuesday, India's Health Ministry had said no confirmed cases involving the mutated strain have been reported in the country. NITI Aayog member (Health) Dr. VK Paul had said the "more infectious" new strain does not appear to make the disease more severe.
India suspends all flights to UK; issues guidelines for surveillance
Since 11:59 pm on Tuesday, India has suspended all flights to and from the UK. The suspension will remain in force until 11:59 pm on December 31. The government has issued detailed guidelines for surveillance of COVID-19 infections among international travelers over the past four weeks. The guidelines also detail the protocol for isolation if the mutated virus is detected among any travelers.
Will vaccines be effective against new strain?
Amid concerns that the mutated strain might render the newly-developed vaccines ineffective, Dr. Paul said the vaccines being developed will not be impacted. The co-founder of BioNTech—the firm that developed the first vaccine approved in the West with Pfizer—also said he was confident the vaccine will be effective against the mutated strain and assured a six-week timeline for a vaccine specific to the mutation.
How bad is the outbreak in India?
As of Wednesday morning, India reported 1,00,99,066 COVID-19 cases, with a spike of 23,950 fresh infections reported over a 24-hour period. The total cases include 2,89,240 active cases and 96,63,382 recoveries. The death toll has risen to 1,46,444 with 333 new fatalities in the past 24 hours. Even as the pace of the outbreak has slowed, India remains the world's second worst-hit country.