South African COVID-19 Variant Detected In Four Returnees: ICMR

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New Delhi: Clearly, India cannot afford to let its guard down, for both the South African and Brazilian variants of the coronavirus have been detected in the country in January and this month, Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR) Director-General Dr. Balram Bhargava said on Tuesday.

Bhargava said that the South African variant of the coronavirus was detected in four people who came to the country last month. “In India, the South African strain of Covid-19 has been detected in four returnees. All the travellers and their contacts were tested and quarantined,” Bhargava said during the Union health ministry’s press briefing.

Listing out further information about the returnees with the South African variant (B.1.351), Bhargava said that one was from Angola, one from Tanzania and the remaining two were from South Africa. The National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune was attempting to isolate and culture the variant strain, he was quoted as saying by Hindustan Times (HT).

A returnee from Brazil had tested positive for the Brazilian variant of Sars-Cov-2 in the first week of February and the person along with their contacts had been tested and quarantined, the ICMR chief said during the briefing. Like the South African variant, the Brazilian one was also being isolated and cultured at the NIV in Pune, he said.

According to ICMR, the Brazilian variant of COVID-19 had emerged in the early part of January. Also referred to as the P.1 lineage, the variant has increased transmissibility and has spread to 15 countries till now.

The United Kingdom

Meanwhile, 187 returnees have tested positive for the United Kingdom variant of COVID-19 in India till now since its detection in December last year. “All confirmed cases are quarantined and treated. Their contacts have been isolated and tested. Neutralisation potential with the UK variant of the virus is there with the vaccine that we have,” Bhargava said.

The UK variant has spread to more than 80 countries so far, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and carries a high transmissible rate of 70 per cent. Several countries have resorted to border restrictions and banning non-resident foreign nationals in order to curb its spread.

Disembarkation and mandatory RT-PCR tests were being done for travellers coming from the UK and genome sequencing was being done for those who tested positive. Similar protocol might be used for flights arriving from South Africa and Brazil, Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan was quoted as saying .

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