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 Kalyani near Kolkata; 1 from NIV, Pune and 1 from IGIB, Delhi.
As per a statement issued by the health ministry, a network of 10 laboratories has been set up to carry out the genetic sequencing of not only those who returned from the UK but also 5 per cent of other RT-PCR positive samples to detect other mutations of the virus that may be circulating in India.
A temporary ban on the flights connecting to the United Kingdom could be extended beyond December 31, Union minister Hardeep Puri indicated as authorities stressed the need to remain vigilant, noting that though the cases have been declining in India, they are on the rise globally and the new strain detected in the UK had spread to several countries.
At the same time, principal scientific advisor K. Vijay Raghavan, as well as other experts, maintained that so far it has not been found that the new variant increases the severity of the disease.
All the persons who have been found infected with the new strain have been kept in single room isolation at designated health care facilities by respective state governments and their close contacts have also been put under quarantine, the union health ministry said.
"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 said.