Six people who reached India from the UK have been detected with the new coronavirus strain that is believed to be 70 per cent more infectious. "Samples of three UK returnees have been tested and found positive for new UK strain in NIMHANS, Bengaluru, two in Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad and one in National Institute of Virology, Pune. All six people have been kept in single room isolation," stated the Health Ministry.
Close contacts of the passengers have also been put under quarantine. Authorities have initiated contact tracing for co-travellers, family contacts and others, the government said.
During a press conference last week, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said that the government is alert about the issue and that there's no need for panic. His assurance came after UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that the new strain is 'out of control'.
Also read: India suspends flights from UK till Dec 31
Meanwhile, India has already banned all flights to and from the UK till December 31. "Considering the prevailing situation in the UK, Indian government has decided that all flights originating from the UK to India shall be temporarily suspended till 11:59 pm, 31st December. This suspension to start w.e.f. 11.59 pm, 22nd December," said the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
Speculations about the potency and fatality of the new variant are rife. The new mutant has also raised questions about the efficacy of the vaccines against it. However, there is no evidence to show that the vaccines will not be efficient against the mutant coronavirus strain. Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome Trust said, "At the moment, there is no indication that this new strain would evade treatments and vaccines. However, the mutation is a reminder of the power of the virus to adapt and that cannot be ruled out in the future."