At a time when people are pinning their hopes on the newly-found Covid-19 vaccine, a fast-spreading new strain of the virus which has been detected in the United Kingdom, has renewed panic across the world. In a latest development, two passengers from the UK who arrived at the Kolkata airport, have tested positive for Covid-19, news agency ANI reported. Besides, five out of 266 passengers and crew of a flight that arrived at the Delhi airport from London on Sunday also tested positive for the deadly pathogen.
The UK has identified a new variant of the Covid-19 that is believed to be fast-spreading and is 70% “more transmissible” than the existing strain, but do Indians need to worry?
After chairing a meeting on Monday with the delegates of Joint Monitoring group, Union health minister Harsh Vardhan has said the Central government was ‘alert’ and has taken all measures to contain the spread of a new variant of the virus and that the scientists are keeping an eye on the developments.
Dr. Vardhan was quoted by the livemint as saying “There is no need to panic over imaginary situations and descriptions. I don’t think, the situation is such to create a panic here, but let me tell you that our scientists are closely keeping an eye on every development.”
This comes even as professor of virology at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has ruled out any worry over the new virus while reasoning that there is no proper evidence to suggest the infection to be dangerous.
Talking to NDTV, Ms. Roy said “There is not too much to worry about it(new strain) because this is just the sequencing(of the virus) and our anabiosis is always changing. There is no evidence yet that it is dangerous or transmitting fast, it is only speculation”.
However, experts have not ruled out the possibilities of the new strain not being spread in the country. Dr. Lalit Kant, former scientist and head, ICMR has asserted that presence of the strain in the nation and said “We cannot exclude the possibility of the new variant not having been carried on to other countries. The new variant has been around for about two months. So there’s a high possibility of the new variant having already spread out- there has been a movement in the past one month. But we are more aware of it”.
Expressing caution, Dr Kant further added that the new variant of the virus has “replaced the previous strain” as it can potentially infect twice the number of people than the first one, infecting around 60 people as against 25-30 people previously.
However, what is interesting to note is that India has recorded 19,556 fresh cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours with the death toll of 301, the lowest since July.
Amidst the growing concern of the emerging coronavirus variant, India has also joined the list of countries to have banned flights to and from the UK, in a bid to contain the spread of the infection. The Ministry of Civil Aviation has informed the flights to and from the UK will be in place starting December 22 until December 31.
Meanwhile, the rapid spread of the variant is not the only thing to be triggering Covid-19. Falling off teeth among those infected by the novel coronavirus has also triggered a cause of concern among the citizens in New York with Farah Khemili, a citizen, experiencing the same. Khemili survived a bout of Covid-19.
Most European nations, including Germany, France, Ireland and Italy have banned passenger flights from Britain, which will remain until January 1,2021. This was in light of lockdown being imposed in London and surrounding areas by the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Amidst this, a chief scientist at the World Health Organisation, Dr Soumya Swaminathan, has claimed that the mutant strain of the coronavirus may already be present in several countries. However, the spread is not ‘out of control’ as was claimed by the European authorities earlier, according to the WHO emergencies chief Michael Ryan.