18 states under scanner after UK, SA, Brazil strains rise

New Delhi, Feb 26 : Eighteen states, including Maharashtra, Kerala and Telangana are under the scanner of the central agency for disease surveillance and prevention as these regions have added close to 200 cases of Covid-19 strain from the UK, South Africa and Brazilian variants of SARS-CoV-2.

The National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has asked these states to keep an eye out for cases with variants arriving here from other countries as the tally of people infected from such strains has reached 194 in the country, as per the latest figures shared by the Union Health Ministry.

These include 187 cases of the UK variant, six from the South African variant while one has been found infected by the Brazilian one.

"The states have been told to increase monitor international arrivals and ensure strict isolation of positive cases, as per protocol as well as increase genome sequencing in the states," a top official from NCDC informed IANS.

The source also said that the presence of the foreign variants have been also found in large states such as Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Rajasthan.

Sujeet Kumar Singh, director, NCDC confirmed that monitoring has increased after samples from these regions revealed the presence of mutated versions of the virus.

"They have been further advised to send at least 5 per cent daily samples for genome sequencing as per the norm," he added.

Scientists and researchers believe that the mutations in the foreign variants have enhanced the transmissibility of the virus as well as its virulence (the capability to bring more severity to the disease) and could be behind the surge in daily infections India has been recording for over a week.

Amid this, the Centre has confirmed detection of two new strains of the novel coronavirus--N440K and E484Q -- other than the Brazilian, the UK and South African in the country.

These variants have been found circulating in a few districts of Maharashtra, Kerala and Telangana.

The news has come in the backdrop of Maharashtra and Kerala reporting an upsurge in COVID-19 cases.

Both the states had been accounting for more than 75 per cent of overall active caseload of the country

However, Balram Bhargava, Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), has clarified that the mutations could not be attributed for the rise in cases.

He also added that the two virus strains have been detected in other countries as well aa a few regions in the country earlier as well and are not specific to India only.

"The E484Q strain was earlier detected in four sequences in Maharashtra as early as March and July 2020.

The N440K mutation has been reported on 13 different occasions between May and September 2020 in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Assam," he had said.

Singh also said that no evidence so far suggests that the mutations have driven the effective transmission in the country, adding that people still need to remain cautious.



Source: IANS