The Union Health Ministry on Monday said that a total of 38 people have tested positive for the new UK variant of COVID-19 in India so far.
According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MohFW), all these people have been kept in single room isolation in designated healthcare facilities by respective state governments and their close contacts have also been put under quarantine.
Of the 38, the mutated UK strain was detected in eight samples at National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), New Delhi, 11 in the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), Delhi, one in the National Institute of Biomedical Genomics (NIBMG), Kalyani (near Kolkata), five in the National Institute of Virology in Pune, three in Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad and 10 were sequenced at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences Hospital (NIMHANS), Bengaluru.
The NCBS, InSTEM in Bengaluru, CDFD in Hyderabad, ILS in Bhubaneswar and NCCS in Pune have so far found no UK mutant virus, the ministry said.
"A total of 38 samples have been found to be positive with the new UK variant genome," the ministry said.
It said comprehensive contact tracing has been initiated for co-travellers, family contacts and others. Genome sequencing on other specimens is going on, it added.
"Comprehensive contact tracing has been initiated for co-travellers, 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," the health ministry said.
The positive COVID-19 samples are being tested at 10 INSACOG labs (NIBMG Kolkata, ILS Bhubaneswar, NIV Pune, NCCS Pune, CCMB Hyderabad, CDFD Hyderabad, InSTEM Bengaluru, NIMHANS Bengaluru, IGIB Delhi and NCDC Delhi) for genome sequencing.
The presence of the new UK variant has already been reported by Denmark, Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Sweden, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Japan, Lebanon and Singapore.
The government of India took cognizance of the reports of virus reported from the UK and put in place a proactive and preventive strategy to detect and contain the mutant variant, it said.
This strategy includes temporary suspension of all flights coming from the UK with effect from the midnight of December 23 till January 7 and mandatory testing of all UK-returned air passengers through RT-PCR test. The samples of all UK returnees found positive in RT-PCR test will be genome sequenced by a consortium of 10 government labs - INSACOG. Further, all the international passengers who have arrived in India between December 9 to 22, if symptomatic and tested positive for COVID-19, will be subjected to genome sequencing as part of the Centre's strategy to detect the mutated UK variant in them.
Others will be followed up by the respective state and district surveillance officers and will be tested as per ICMR guidelines (even if asymptomatic) between fifth and tenth day, according to the Union Health Ministry's guidance document on genomic sequencing.
Further, epidemiological surveillance of the passengers, who have arrived in India since November 23 will be conducted in the community through active follow up. Besides, standard operating protocol for states and UTs to tackle the mutant variant of SARS-CoV-2 was issued on December 22.
(Inputs from Agencies)