By Priyanka Sharma
New Delhi [India], February 16 (ANI): India has reported four cases of South Africa variant strain of SARS-CoV-2 and one case of Brazil variant strain, the Union Health Ministry informed on Tuesday.
During the weekly press conference on COVID-19 pandemic update, 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 traveler 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 is mutations in the receptor binding domain of the spike protein and increased transmissibility. It has spread to 15 countries so far," it said.
"Incase 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.
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 traveler coming from UK flights. Those who tested positive, their geneome 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 S. Arfica and Brazilan flights do not have direct flight to India like the UK flights. Most of the traffic is routed from Gulf countries. For this civil aviation ministry is looking into it." (ANI)