“Serious Implications”: Centre Calls For Tighter Screening For New Strain

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India has called for rigorous screening and testing in response to the new strain. (File)

New Delhi:

India on Thursday called for rigorous screening and testing of flyers from South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana, where a new form of COVID-19 with multiple mutations has been found that has led to an increase in infections.

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In a letter to the states and union territories, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan asked them to confirm that the samples of travelers being positive were immediately sent to the designated genome sequencing laboratory. The contacts of these international travelers must be closely tracked and examined as per the guidelines of the Ministry of Health, he said.

“The NCDC (National Center for Disease Control) has now reported that Botswana (3 cases), South Africa (6 cases) and Hong Kong (1 case) have reported multiple cases of a COVID-19 version 8.1.1529. There has been a significant increase in the number of mutations, and thus, the recently relaxed visa restrictions and the opening up of international travel have serious public health implications for the country, “the letter said.

“Therefore, it is imperative to include all international travelers traveling and transiting from these countries, (they are part of the” risk “country category for international travelers arriving in India) and other ‘at-risk’ countries indicated in the revised list.” Guidelines for arrival are subject to strict screening and testing in accordance with the MoHFW guidelines. The contacts of these international travelers must also be closely tracked and tested in accordance with the MoHFW guidelines, “it said.

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The new version of COVID-19, which had previously been linked to undetected high-risk spike mutations, has been detected in South Africa and other counties, where authorities on Thursday confirmed 22 positive cases associated with it. The number of daily infections has risen tenfold in Africa’s worst-hit country since the beginning of the month.

Dr Tom Mayur, a virologist at Imperial College London, posted details of the new variant, classified as B.1.1.529, on his Twitter account earlier this week, after which scientists thought it was being considered as a variant of concern. It has not yet been officially classified in the UK.

Scientists around the world will look at the new variant for signs of speed gain or more widespread and rapid spread. The high number of spike mutations is related from the perspective of both high contagion and disease resistance.

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The WHO said it was “closely monitoring” the reported form and was expected to convene a technical meeting on Friday to determine whether it should be designated as a variant of “interest” or “concern”.

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