India has not yet detected the new strain of Coronavirus that was recently detected spreading in the UK and the curb on flight services was a measure of caution, top government officials reportedly said on Monday.
The new strain found in the UK is feared to be more infectious and over 70 percent more transmissible, experts in UK said over the weekend. After the new strain was detected, over 40 nations including India suspended flight operations.
A number of European nations among others have shut off travel ties to Britain after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that the new strain of the coronavirus was a danger to the country.
“It is just a precautionary measure. This strain has not been found in India,” confirmed Rajesh Bhushan, Union health secretary, according to Hindustan Times.
ICMR expert have also maintained that they have not found UK strain in the samples. “We have not found anything related to the UK strain so far in any of our samples. Be it in our laboratory in National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune or any other laboratories across the country doing genome sequencing, there is no evidence of this mutation in our samples,” Dr Samiran Panda, head, epidemiology and communicable diseases, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), reportedly said.
India has been performing virus genome sequencing to follow mutations, according to report. the government said that it will ban all flights to and fro the United Kingdom from 23:59 hours on December 22. This comes hours after Hong Kong made a similar announcement, becoming the first city in Asia to announce such a halt after a new super-virulent strain of the novel coronavirus was identified in Britain.
“It is an ongoing process that started some eight months ago. The process is that if there is any new mutation found in the virus then it is compared with past mutations to figure out the change. So far, there have only been minor mutations seen in the virus which is not of much consequence, and nobody has identified anything of this particular UK strain,” Dr Panda reportedly said.
Experts performing genome sequencing also say they haven’t come across this particular strain as yet.
“We are constantly vigilant, and it is not like the strain has mutated in the UK and suddenly we will start looking for this mutation. If there is a mutation it will show up in the surveillance but so far there is nothing of consequence,” Dr Panda reportedly added.
A senior virologist at a prominent government laboratory said that so far they have not identified the new strain. “There are two things, antigenic drift and antigenic shift wherein drift is a minor change and shift suggests a major mutation in the virus structure. Many times even if there has been a mutation we have to see what impact it has clinically. There have been mutations detected in Sars-Cov-2 virus in the past but those haven’t meant much clinically,” the virologist said.
According to the virologist, the mutation should not be a cause for concern as it has shown to be more transmissible, which suggests that it will spread faster, and not more virulent.