Six UK returnees found positive with new COVID-19 variant

Six UK returnees found positive with new COVID-19 variant

New Delhi, December 29, 2020

The Government today said six samples of six persons who have returned from the United Kingdom to India in recent weeks have been found to be positive with the new UK variant genome of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Three of the samples were found positve at NIMHANS, Bengaluru, two in CCMB, Hyderabad and one in NIV, Pune, a press release from the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare said. The three labs are part of the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG).

"All these persons have been kept in single room isolation in designated Health Care facilities by respective State Governments. Their close contacts have also been put under quarantine. Comprehensive contact tracing has been initiated for co-travellers, family contacts and others. Genome sequencing on other specimens is going on," it said.

"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 is important to note that 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, so far," the release said.

The Government has put in place a pro-active and preventive strategy to detect and contain the mutant variant of the SARS- CoV-2 virus reported from the UK.

As part of the strategy, all flights from and to the UK were suspended from midnight of December 23 to December 31. The Government has also ordered mandatory testing of all UK returnee 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.

The National Task Force (NTF) on Covid-19 examined the entire issue at length on December 26 and concluded that there was no need to change either the existing National Treatment Protocol or existing Testing Protocols in view of the mutant variant. NTF also recommended that in addition to the existing surveillance strategy, it is critical to conduct enhanced genomic surveillance.

From November 25 to December 23, about 33,000 passengers disembarked at various Indian airports from the UK. All these passengers are being tracked and subjected by States to RT-PCR tests.

So far, only 114 have been found positive. These positive samples were sent to 10 INSACOG labs (NIBMG Kolkata, ILS Bhubaneswar, NIV Pune, CCS Pune, CCMB Hyderabad, CDFD Hyderabad, InSTEM Bengaluru, NIMHANS Bengaluru, IGIB Delhi, NCDC Delhi) for genome sequencing.


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