A total of 20 people in India now have the new coronavirus strain, according to ministry data on Wednesday. This includes results of the six who tested positive and were announced to have the new strain on Tuesday. The samples that tested positive for the new strain were 8 from NCDC, Delhi; 7 from NIMHANS, Bengaluru; 2 from CCMB, Hyderabad; 1 from NIBG, Kolkata; 1 from NIV, Pune and 1 from IGIB, Delhi.
In the meantime, two more contacts of people, who were found infected with COVID-19 after returning from the United Kingdom, have tested positive for the disease. With this, the total number of infected persons, including those who returned from the UK and their contacts, has gone up to 33, a Delhi government official said.
"All the 33 persons admitted to a special facility in LNJP hospital were stable. Their samples have been sent for genome sequencing to ascertain whether they were carrying the new UK strain or not," he was quoted as saying by nws agency PTI.
Out of the 33 infected persons, 11 were tested through RT-PCR tests at the IGI airport on their arrival from the UK. Nine other UK returnees were found positive in the Delhi government's district-level door-to-door contact and testing drive.
Nearly 33,000 passengers had disembarked at various Indian airports from the UK between November 25 to December 23. All these passengers are being tracked and were subjected by states/UTs to RT-PCR tests.
"Comprehensive contact tracing has been initiated for co-travellers, family contacts and others. Genome sequencing on other specimens is going on. 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," the ministry had said.
The new strain was first detected in the UK in September. In November, around a quarter of cases in London were the new variant. This reached nearly two-thirds of the cases in mid-December.
Meanwhile, India has suspended all passenger flights connecting to the UK in the wake of the emergence of a mutated variant of the coronavirus there, joining several other countries that have imposed a similar flight ban.
According to the Union Health Ministry, the variant strain has 14 non-synonymous (amino acid altering) mutations, 6 synonymous (non-amino-acid altering), and three deletions. Eight mutations are present in the Spike (S) gene which carries the binding site (Receptor Binding Domain) of the ACE2 receptors, which are the point of entry of the virus into the human respiratory cells.