Indian Govt Warns Against New, More Dangerous Covid-19 Variant Found In South Africa; UK Cancels All Flights
A new Covid-19 strain has been doing rounds and health experts all across the globe are expressing caution towards it. The new variant, called the B.1.1.529 has been red-flagged by scientists everywhere, as it is reported to have a significantly high number of mutations, thus leading to alarming public health implications.
Citing caution on the same, the Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan has directed the health ministries of all states and union territories to rigorously screen and test passengers travelling or transiting from South Africa, Botswana, and Hong Kong.
New Covid-19 Strain Detected
South African scientists, in a news conference on Thursday informed that the mutations detected in the new Covid-19 variant is concerning because they are capable of evading the body’s immune response, thereby making it more transmissible.
In a letter addressed to all states and Union Territories, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said India’s National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has informed the government that about 10 cases of the new Covid-19 strain have been detected in 3 countries, with 6 in South Africa, 3 in Botswana, and 1 in Hong Kong.
As a result, all international travellers coming from, or even transiting from these three countries will undergo rigorous screening and testing as per MoHFW guidelines, and the samples of passengers turning positive are ordered to be sent to genome sequencing labs designated under the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Sequencing Consortium (INSACOG).
The contacts of these international travellers must also be closely tracked and tested as per MoHFW guidelines. UK has announced a temporary ban on flights from 6 countries.
“This variant is reported to have a significantly high number of mutations, and thus, has serious public health implications for the country, in view of recently relaxed visa restrictions and opening up of international travel”, added Bhushan.
Covid surveillance officers in the states will coordinate with INSACOG labs, and undertake test-track-treat to prevent the spread of the variant and the formation case clusters, states the Indian Express.
Authorities in Botswana reported four cases of B.1.1.529 in fully vaccinated travellers.At this moment, real-world impact of the variant has not been established, and they have the potential to affect severity of disease.