Thursday, 20 January 2022

New Covid Variant of South Africa prompt alert in India

New Covid Variant of South Africa prompt alert in India

After Hours authorities of South Africa announced they had detected a new variant of the coronavirus with a “very unusual constellation” of mutations. On Thursday, the Union Health Ministry directed states to rigorously screen and test travelers are coming from or moving through three countries in which the variant had been confirmed — South Africa, Hong Kong, and Botswana.

In a communication to all states and UT, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said India’s National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) had informed the government that “multiple cases of Covid-19 variant B.1.1529 have been reported in Botswana as of 3 cases, South Africa (6 cases) and Hong Kong (1 case)”.

Bhushan said.

“This mutant is reported to have a significantly high number of mutations, and therefore, has serious public health involvement for the country, in view of recently relaxed visa restrictions and opening up of international travel,”

The communication said.

“lt is therefore imperative that to all international travellers travelling from and transiting through these countries, (they are part of the “at-risk” Country Category of international travellers coming to lndia) are subjected to correct testing and screening,”

“The contacts of the international travellers must also be closely tracked and tested as per MoHFW guidelines.”

New Covid Variant of South Africa prompt alert in India 1unsplash image

Read More: First case of 'Mu' Variant was detected in Finland and 39 other countries

Reuters said in a report from Johannesburg.

The Hong Kong case is a traveler from South Africa. On Thursday, South African scientists told a news conference that the mutations detected in B.1.1529 were “regarding because they could help it avoid the body’s immune response and make it more contagious,”

Following direction, all states will have to send samples from Covid-positive travelers to designated labs of Indian SARS-CoV-2 (INSACOG), which tracks and monitors the emergence and transmission of variants of concern and variants of interest in India.

South African scientists have expressed concern over the mutations, but a realistic assessment will rest on more comprehensive genome sequencing studies. South Africa has requested an urgent sitting of a WHO working group on virus evolution on Friday to discuss the variant.

Covid surveillance officers in states will have to coordinate with INSACOG labs and undertake test-track-treat to prevent the spread of the new variant and the formation of case clusters.

Of the four variants of worry currently designated by the WHO, Beta (Pango lineage B.1.351) was first recognized in South Africa in May 2020. The other three VOCs, Gamma (P.1), Delta (B.1.617.2), and Gamma (P.1), were first detected in the United Kingdom, India, and Brazil in September 2020, October 2020, and November 2020, respectively.

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