India has recorded six cases of a mutant strain of coronavirus, which is experts say 70 per cent more infectious and was first reported in the United Kingdom.
All six cases have been found in individuals who returned from the UK recently, the health ministry said on Tuesday.
Samples of 3 UK returnees have been tested and found positive for new UK strain in NIMHANS, Bengaluru, two in Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad and one in National Institute of Virology, Pune.
All six positive people have been kept in single room isolation, said the health ministry.
“Comprehensive contact tracing has been initiated for co-travelers, family contacts and others. Genome sequencing on other specimens is going on. 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,” it added.
According to the Union Health Ministry, between November 25 and December 23, about 33,000 passengers disembarked at various Indian airports from the UK. All these passengers are being tracked and subjected by States and Union Territories to RT-PCR tests. So far only 114 have been found positive for COVID-19.
The UK mutant variant of coronavirus, known among scientists as B.1.1.7, appears to be highly capable.
On the available evidence, the mutant variant of coronavirus is more infectious though less lethal.
Viruses mutate all the time, primarily because they don’t correct random errors in their genome.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that the countries should sequence genomes of 0.33 per cent of Covid-19 patients to detect a mutant variety – one in every 300 coronavirus-infected persons.
The new variants are likely to increase the number of patients of Covid-19.
First identified in the UK in September, the new strain is rapidly replacing other variations of the virus, according to WHO.