Amid mounting concern over a new strain of COVID-19 detected in the UK, the central government on Tuesday said that no significant mutation have been detected yet in the coronavirus strain in India. However, authorities will have to continue to remain vigilant, the government added.
"We haven't detected any significant mutation yet in coronavirus strain in India. There is no cause of concern but we have to be vigilant," news agency PTI quoted government sources as saying.
Dr VK Paul, a member of government think-tank NITI Aayog, reportedly confirmed that the new strain or mutation of the coronavirus, that was detected in the United Kingdom, has not been seen in India so far.
The variant, detected mainly in London and the southeast of England in recent weeks, has sparked concern worldwide because of signs that it may spread more easily. While there is no indication it causes more serious illness, numerous countries in Europe and beyond have restricted travel from the UK as a result.
The Government of India also confirmed on this day that as far as the new coronavirus strain is concerned, mutated SARS-CoV-2 strain, detected in the UK, has no impact on potential of emerging vaccines. The government acknowleged that the new strain "has increased transmissibility", but this mutation "isn't affecting disease severity or case fatality", it said.
Meanwhile, amping up preparatory measures in context of the new coronavirus strain that was discovered in the United Kingdom (UK), the central government on Tuesday tweaked its COVID-19 guidelines and issued a series of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) which impose special rules on passengers arriving from Britain.
The SOPs, issued for "epidemiological surveillance and response in the context of new variant of SARS-CoV-2 virus", state that District Surveillance Officers will contact international travellers from the UK who arrived in India from November 25 to December 8 this year. On developing symptoms, they will also have to undergo mandatory RT-PCR testing, the new guidelines detail.
All flights from the UK have been temporarily suspended till December 31, and the present status of the suspension is to remain the same until further orders. Moreover, the state governments have been instructed to ensure that passengers travelling from or via UK are subjected to mandatory RT-PCR testing on arrival in India.
In addition, the Union Heath Ministry has asked state governments to send the samples of the passengers who tested positive on arrival from the UK to the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune or any other appropriate lab for genome sequencing study.
The genome sequencing study would determine if the COVID patients are carrying the existing strain of SARS-CoV-2 or the mutant strain which was discovered in the UK's population.