UK virus strain a ‘Super-Spreader’: NITI Aayog’s Dr Paul

New Delhi: At a time when India is witnessing a decline in the active coronavirus cases, a new mutation of COVID-19 virus strain in United Kingdom has become a “Super-Spreader” with 70 per cent increased transmissibility rate. However, this mutated and more aggressive strain of the novel coronavirus has not been found in India so far, Dr VK Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog said on Tuesday.

According to the Union Health Ministry data, India’s active caseload has fallen below 3 lakh (2,92,518) as of Tuesday, the lowest after 163 days.

Addressing a press conference on COVID-19 updates, Dr VK Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog said: “We are in good position and we have to keep this momentum. It will help in suppressing the virus by remaining vigilant. In UK, new mutation of virus has been seen.”

Dr Paul said, “We talked to UK research community and we came to know that the mutation has enhanced the transmissibility rate of the virus. It is being said that 70 per cent transmissibility rate has increased. We can call them that the virus has become super-spreader.”

“This virus mutation is not affecting the severity of the disease, neither the case fatality nor the hospitalization rate. The new strain or mutation of coronavirus seen in the United Kingdom has not been seen in India, so far. There is no cause for concern, no need to panic. As for now, we need to stay vigilant,” he added

Explaining the virus mutation, Dr Paul said: “Mutation means that change in RNA of the virus. The change in the virus is called drift. It has no significance. This behaviour is seen in many virus including this virus.”

“Around 17 changes are seen in the virus and one change –N501Y is responsible for the virus by which it enter in human cells. It increases the tendency of the virus to enter in our body. Only tendency to infect more people has increased. It is cause for concern. It is an adverse development in UK,” Dr Paul added.

Informing about the action taken up the Central government, the NITI Aayog official said, “The government is looking into it. We have robust laboratories and we are studying the genetic structure of thousands of viruses. We have not found the mutation of the virus seen in UK. Since, people are travelling amid pandemic and it was found in Australia and some countries in Europe and hence we have to remain vigilant. The new strain or mutation of Coronavirus seen in the United Kingdom has not been seen in India, so far.”

In the wake of this UK virus mutation, the Central government on Monday took a slew of measures as a matter of abundant precaution.

“Passengers travelling to and from UK have been stopped temporarily till 31 December. Since yesterday, we have started genetic sequencing of The samples which have came in our laboratory recently. We are doing it in a fast speed,” he said.

“The passengers who have came to India from UK, we are tracing them and checking their health condition and doing their COVID-19 tests. If they found positive for virus, we take their specimen and culture their virus and do genometic sequences,” he added.

“All the incoming passengers are going through RT-PCR tests. We follow the said procedure for them. If anyone found positive we will test the virus and do the genometic sequencing,” he said.

Pointing out that virus mutation cannot affect the development of COVID-19 vaccine, Dr Paul noted: “As of now, the new strain of COVID-19 in UK has no impact on the potential of the emerging vaccines being developed in our country and are available in other countries.”

“Based on our discussions with scientists in UK, colleagues in World Health Organisation (WHO) and with our deep assessment we can say that there is no need to panic. There is no change in the procedure and guidelines of treatment due to this mutation,” said Dr Paul adding that people need to be more vigilant and a win the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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