South African Covid-19 strain detected in 4 returnees: Centre

WION Web Team
NEW DELHI Published: Feb 16, 2021, 07.49 PM(IST)

(Representative Image) Photograph:( AFP )

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Dr Bhargava further informed that ICMR-NIV Pune is attempting to isolate and culture the SA variant strain from the samples of these four individual returnees. The S African variant first emerged independently in South Africa in mid-December 2020.

The Union Government today said that four cases of covid-19 with South Africa strain have been detected in the country in January through its ongoing genomic surveillance initiative.

Dr Balram Bhargava, Director General of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said: "In India, the South Africa strain has been detected in four different SA returnees -- one from Angola, one from Tanzania and two from South Africa in January 2021. While one Brazil returnee has tested positive for the Brazil variant of SARS-CoV-2 in the first week of February 2021. The traveller from both the countries and their contacts have been tested and quarantined."

Dr Bhargava further informed that ICMR-NIV Pune is attempting to isolate and culture the SA variant strain from the samples of these four individual returnees. The S African variant first emerged independently in South Africa in mid-December 2020. It has spread to 44 countries. The central government said the Brazil variant of SARS-CoV2 emerged independently in Brazil in early January 2021. This attributed to increased cases in Brazil, particularly Manaus.

"There are mutations in the receptor-binding domain of the spike protein and increased transmissibility. It has spread to 15 countries so far," it said."In case of Brazil variant strain, virus strain has been successfully isolated and cultured at ICMR-NIV, Pune. Experiments to assess vaccine effectiveness are underway," he said.

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In context with the UK virus strain, the ICMR DG said: "To date, INSACOG has reported cases of 187 UK variants and no deaths have been reported. All confirmed cases quarantined and treated. Contacts isolated and tested," adding that the isolation of UK variant has been published in the Journal of Travel Medicine. Meanwhile answering a query on putting travel restrictions on S Africa and Brazil flights, Rajesh Bhushan said, "We have already done disembarkations and mandatory RT-PCR tests for the traveller coming from UK flights. For those who tested positive, their genome sequencing is being done. I think this is a good strategy. I hope we might follow this similar strategy for S Africa and Brazil flights. The catch is this South Africa and Brazilian flights do not have a direct flight to India like the UK flights. Most of the traffic is routed from Gulf countries. For this civil aviation, the ministry is looking into it."

(With inputs from agencies)

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