India has not witnessed any significant mutation of COVID-19 causing SARS-CoV2 virus so far, the central government said on Tuesday. adding that it was stepping up efforts to conduct genome sequencing of the samples of recent travellers from the UK.
“Our labs have done genome sequencing of thousands of viruses isolated in the country and so far there is no signal or any significant mutation in India. But because we live in an interconnected world and Australia and Denmark have reported variants of the virus, we have prioritised genome sequencing of recent samples from incoming passengers from the UK,” VK Paul, a member of NITI Aayog, said.
He said the UK mutation was not a cause for worry but yes it did call for heightened vigilance to ensure India doesn’t squander the gains made so far in pandemic management.
“It’s not a cause for panic. We can say that based on our deep assessment of current data. The new variant of the virus is more transmissible but doesn’t have a greater propensity for death, hospitalisation or severe disease. Nor does it impact the potential of vaccines being developed in India and available elsewhere in the world. So yet we need to be watchful to preserve our gains by intensifying COVID appropriate behaviours and avoiding crowding but no cause for panic,” Paul said.
The new variant of the COVID virus as reported by the UK has 17 changes, the most significant being to its spike protein which the virus used to bind to human cells.
The UK mutation has increased the ability of the virus to infect which in itself is a challenge, said Paul calling for caution on a day when India issued fresh protocols to test everyone coming in or transiting through the UK through the last four weeks.