New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: The Health Ministry on Tuesday said there is no evidence that the current vaccines will fail to protect against new variants of COVID-19 reported from the United Kingdom or South Africa. Addressing the media, the Health Ministry also said that there is no evidence that the new virus variant increases severity of the disease. 

The government also warned against a possible deadlier mutation of the new virus strain, saying that the country needed to be careful against it. 

"The major population is still susceptible to COVID-19 infection in this cold weather. UK variant has travelled to several other countries and also to India. This variant may have its own run and we've to be very careful. One can't be careless," said Dr V K Paul, Member (Health), Niti Aayog

The ministry also said that all international passengers who arrived in India from December 9 to 22 and tested positive for COVID-19 will be subjected to genome sequencing as part of the Centre's strategy to detect the mutated coronavirus strain that has emerged in the United Kingdom recently.

It said that around 5,000 genome sequences had already been done even before the new strain of virus was detected in UK and South Africa. 

"Prior to the news of the UK variant came in, we had done roughly 5,000 genome sequences across labs. Now we'll be significantly increasing that number and would be working in a coordinated manner," said Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan. 

"An important development is the establishment of INSACOG, which is a consortium of 10 govt labs across the country to do genome sequencing of COVID-19 as well as any variant of that virus. These labs belong to ICMR, BioTech India, CSIR and Health Ministry," he added.  

The presence of the new UK variant of the coronavirus has already been reported by Denmark, the Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Sweden, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Japan, Lebanon and Singapore so far.

The health ministry has established the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) for laboratory and epidemiological surveillance and to expand the whole genome sequencing of the coronavirus in the country, aiding in the understanding of how the virus spreads and evolves.

India has put in place a pro-active and preventive strategy to detect and contain the mutant variant of the virus. It includes temporary suspension of all flights coming from the UK with effect from the midnight of December 23 till December 31 and mandatory testing of all UK returnee air passengers through RT-PCR test.

The Health Ministry said that active COVID-19 caseload in the country had slipped to 2.7 lakh after 6 months while the cumulative positivity rate was at 6.02 per cent. It also highlighted the fact that 70 per cent of the fatalities due to COVID-19 were recorded among males. 

It said that five states and Union Territories - Maharashtra, Kerala, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh - accounted for 60 per cent of the total confirmed cases reported across the country. 

Posted By: Abhinav Gupta