New Delhi, December 22
India today reported 19,556 new infections in 24 hours, the daily cases dropping below 20,000 after a gap of 173 days. The active cases (2, 92,518) have also fallen below 3 lakh after 163 days and now make up less than 3 per cent of all cases.
The government, meanwhile, said the highly transmissible mutant strain reported by the UK had not been seen in India so far. It said all passengers who arrived from the UK or transited through it over the last four weeks starting November 25 would be put under surveillance and tracked. Advising vigilance but ruling out panic, NITI Aayog Member, Health, VK Paul said the new strain increased the transmissibility of Covid, but did not increase the propensity for death, hospitalisation or severity of disease nor did it negatively impact the potential of vaccines being developed in India or available elsewhere.
Contacts of passengers who test positive will be put in institutional quarantine, tested and handled as per new SOPs. Contacts are defined as “co-passengers seated in the same row, three rows in front and three behind along with the identified cabin crew.”
Preliminary reports suggest 13 passengers who arrived from the UK in different flights since yesterday had tested positive. Their samples have been sent to NIV-Pune for genome sequencing. WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan however did not rule out the possibility of the mutant strain circulating in other countries. “I suspect as more countries look at their data they might find that this variant or a related variant may already be there,” Swaminathan said.