COVID-19 task force details plan to detect new coronavirus strain
The national task force on COVID-19 on Saturday discussed surveillance strategies for the newly-detected strain of coronavirus in the United Kingdom, which is believed to be more infectious. The task force's meeting—held by the Indian Council of Medical Research—noted that there is no need to change the existing treatment protocol. Since it was reported by the UK, multiple countries have detected the mutated strain.
Meeting led by Dr. VK Paul, Dr. Balram Bhargava
The meeting was held under co-chairpersonship of NITI Aayog member Dr. VK Paul and ICMR Director General Dr. Balram Bhargava. Discussions were held on evidence-based modifications in testing, treatment, and surveillance strategies for the virus. During the meeting, it was highlighted that the mutated strain found in the UK has been said to increase the transmissibility of the virus.
Samples of 5% infections to be tested for new strain
While the task force concluded there was no need to change the existing treatment protocol, it highlighted the need for routine genomic surveillance to track different strains of the coronavirus. Samples of 5% of positive cases from all states/union territories will be sent for genome sequencing. A genomic surveillance consortium called INSACOG has also been formed under the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
'Important to understand that SARS-CoV-2 will keep mutating'
The Health Ministry said, "It's important to understand that like all other RNA viruses, SARS-CoV-2 will continue to mutate. The mutated virus can also be contained by measures like social distancing, hand hygiene, wearing masks and also by an effective vaccine, as and when available."
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. In India, over 50 samples of people who have returned from the UK after currently being sequenced at six labs across the country to see if they have the mutated strain, officials said. However, it has not been detected in India so far.
How bad is the outbreak in India?
As of Sunday morning, India reported 10,187,850 COVID-19 cases, with a spike of 18,732 fresh infections reported over a 24-hour period. The total cases include 2,78,690 active cases and 97,61,538 recoveries. The death toll has risen to 1,47,622 with 279 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.