Kerala Kaumudi Online
Wednesday, 12 May 2021 10.27 PM IST

Four detected with SA variant of COVID-19 in India, one with Brazil strain


NEW DELHI: For the first time in India, four people were detected with the South Africa variant of SARS-CoV-2 and one tested positive for the Brazil variant in the country, the Centre said on Tuesday.

In India, the South Africa strain has been detected in four returnees - one from Angola, one from Tanzania and two from South Africa in January, ICMR Director General Balram Bhargava said.

All travellers and contacts have been tested and quarantined.

"The ICMR-NIV is attempting to isolate and culture the SA variant strain from the samples of these four individual returnees," he said.

One Brazil returnee has tested positive for the Brazil variant of SARS-CoV-2 in the first week of February. The traveller and contacts have been tested and quarantined.

"The virus strain has been successfully isolated and cultured at ICMR-NIV, Pune," Bhargava said, adding that experiments to assess vaccine effectiveness are underway.

Elaborating on the two strains, Bhargava said the South African variant of SARS-CoV-2, also known as 20H/501Y.V2 or B.1.351, emerged independently in South Africa and was first reported in mid-December.

It has multiple mutations, including in receptor binding domain of spike protein, and majority of the cases in South Africa are due to the variant strain, which has spread to 44 countries

While the Brazil variant of SARS-CoV-2, also known as 20J/501Y.V3 or P.1, lineage emerged independently in Brazil in early January. It has attributed to increased cases in Brazil, particularly Manaus. The mutations in the receptor binding domain of the spike protein

The Brazil strain has increased transmissibility and has spread to 15 countries.

Meanwhile, the number of people who have tested positive for the UK variant of SARS-CoV-2 in the country has climbed to 187. There has been no mortality, Bhargava said.

"We have been able to culture and isolate this strain and test the efficacy of the vaccine," he said.

A very close watch is being kept on these variants, he stressed.

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said a similar strategy for flights, which was followed for detecting the UK variant, might be followed for detection of South Africa and Brazil variants too.

"We have done disembarkations, mandatory RT-PCR tests for travellers coming from the UK. Those who tested positive, their genome sequencing being done. This is a good strategy. I hope we might follow this similar strategy for flights from South Africa and Brazil," Bhushan said.

Responding to a question on flight restrictions to South Africa and Brazil, he said India doesn't have many direct flights to South Africa and Brazil. The flights are routed from various places like the Gulf. We will discuss and announce any preventive measures.

NITI Aayog member (Health) V K Paul urged people to maintain vigil and keep following COVID-19 appropriate behaviour.

"70 per cent of Indian population is still vulnerable. Vigil to contain this virus must continue. We still don't fully understand the virus so we have to be serious about vaccination and COVID-19''s appropriate behaviour," he said.

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