Experts say New Covid strain not yet detected in India


New Delhi: A government official on Monday said that India has not yet found the new strain of coronavirus that has been detected in some parts of the United Kingdom (UK).

The Indian government has temporarily suspended the flights from the UK, to describe it as a “measure of caution”.

If experts of the UK are to believed, the new strain is believed to be 70% more infectious and transmissible.

Talking about flight curbs, Rajesh Bhushan, Union Health Secretary said, “It is just a precautionary measure. This strain has not been found in India,” quoted Hindustan Times (HT).

Dr. Samiran Panda, head, epidemiology, and communicable diseases, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), also said, “We have not found anything related to the UK strain so far in any of our samples. Be it in our laboratory in the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune or any other laboratories across the country doing genome sequencing, there is no evidence of this mutation in our samples,” reported HT.

As a feature of epidemiological reconnaissance, India has been performing infection genome sequencing to follow mutations or transformations.

Dr. Samiran Panda further said, “It is an ongoing process that started some eight months ago. The process is that if there is any new mutation found in the virus then it is compared with past mutations to figure out the change. So far, there have only been minor mutations seen in the virus which is not of much consequence, and nobody has identified anything of this particular UK strain.”

He added, “We are constantly vigilant, and it is not like the strain has mutated in the UK and suddenly we will start looking for this mutation. If there is a mutation it will show up in the surveillance but so far there is nothing of consequence.”

HT quoted Dr. Jacob John, former virology department head, Christian Medical College, Vellore as saying, “There are three causes of worry when we talk of virus mutation: transmissibility, pathogenicity (the strength to cause disease), immunogenicity (to provoke the body’s immune response). In both cases, in the UK and South Africa, the strains are more transmissible. The virulent part has not been established yet.”

“It partly explains the second wave that the world is seeing; however it will be difficult to predict the epidemic pattern in India as we don’t have a systemic approach to pandemic research in India. We don’t have the relevant data. We treat outbreaks more like a law and order problem in India,” he added.