New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: In an alarming development, the Union Health Ministry on Tuesday informed that the few cases of South African and Brazilian COVID-19 variants have been reported in India in the past few weeks. Four people were detected with the South Africa variant of SARS-CoV-2 in India in January, while one tested positive for the Brazil variant strain in the first week of February.

All four patients of South African COVID-19 variant are travellers who returned from Angola, Tanzania and South Africa in January, while one infected with the Brazilian variant also returned from Brazil in the first week of February.

Addressing the regular Covid-19 media briefing, Director-General of Indian Centre for Medical Research Dr Balram Bhargava said that the infected people and their contacts have been tested and quarantined.

“ICMR-NIV is attempting to isolate and culture the South African variant of SARS-CoV-2, while the Brazil variant of SAS-CoV-2 has been isolated and cultured at ICMR-NIV-Pune,” Dr Bhargava said, adding that the strains can more easily infect a person's lungs than the UK mutation.

In wake of the cases of South African and Brazilian variant emerging in India, the government is now considering mandating RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) tests for all people coming from Brazil and South Africa, as is being done for those flying in from the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry also said that India has so far reported 187 cases of infection with the UK variant of COVID-19 virus. However, no deaths have been reported among the people infected with the UK variant.

“All confirmed cases are quarantined and treated. Their contacts have been isolated and tested. Neutralisation potential with the UK variant of the virus is there with the vaccine that we have,” Bhargava said.

Bhargava also said that existing vaccines have the potential to neutralise the UK variant and experiments are on to assess the effectiveness of the vaccines against the South African and Brazilian variants.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the South African and Brazilian strains of COVID-19 are more contagious and spreads faster than the normal COVID-19 strain. The WHO also noted that vaccines could be less effective on these strains, however, there is no concrete proof to that.

Posted By: Talibuddin Khan