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Coronavirus | 81% of samples in Punjab turn out positive for U.K. variant

A medic collects a swab sample of a woman for COVID-19 test at a government hospital, in Amritsar, Punjab on March 19, 2021.   | Photo Credit: PTI

With 81% of the latest 401 COVID-19 samples sent by the State for genome sequencing turning out positive for the U.K. variant, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Tuesday appealed to the people to get themselves vaccinated, even as he urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to widen the vaccination ambit to cover those under 60 since this mutant had been found to be infecting young people more.

Medical experts have also endorsed the viewpoint saying there should be vaccination to all adults.

Expressing concern over the emerging situation, the Chief Minister stressed the need for the Central government to urgently open up vaccination for a bigger section of the populace. The process needed to be expedited, he said, pointing to the fact that experts had found the existing Covishield vaccine to be equally effective against the U.K. variant — B.1.1.7. It was essential to vaccinate more people to break the chain of transmission, he added.

Capt. Singh also urged people to strictly adhere to all COVID-19 safety protocols, including wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. The appeal came after the State’s Covid expert committee head, K.K. Talwar, apprised him of the developments on the new variant in the State, which has been witnessing a surge in the number of COVID-19 positive cases during the last few weeks.

The State Health Department had sent 478 COVID-19 positive samples to the NIB, the IGIB, and the NCDC for genome sequencing, of which results of 90 samples were received and those showed only two samples for the new N440K variant.

Subsequently, a team from the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare visited the State to review the increase in positivity. The team was informed about the pending results of genome sequencing.

Thereafter, 401 more samples, collected between February 1 and March 10, were sent to the NCDC for genome sequencing. The result of these samples was worrying, as it showed presence of B.1.1.7 variant in 326 of them, said Dr Talwar.

The Chief Minister said Dr. Talwar had informed him that though the UK variant B.1.1.7 was more infectious, it was not more virulent. Further, the Oxford (Covishield) vaccine was equally effective against the U.K. variant.

Dr. Jagat Ram, director at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, said he believes the sphere of vaccination should be increased. “The scope of vaccination needs to be increased and I am sure in the coming days the Centre would be ensuring that the sphere is expanded by including younger people as well,” Mr. Ram told The Hindu.

Pankaj Malhotra, professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the PGIMER, also endorsed the viewpoint saying, “I agree that there should be more vaccination centres and vaccination to all adults. The younger population is generally the spreader whereas the elderly population is the sufferer. So, targeting both groups is important to halt the spread and decrease the mortality. Emerging variants is a natural evolution process. The B.1.1.7 initially was thought to be more virulent. However, it appears to be more infectious than more virulent. Both vaccines available in India should cover this variant.”

The B.1.1.7 variant is spreading rapidly in many parts of the world, representing 98% of the new cases in U.K. and 90% in Spain. Authorities in the U.K. have suggested it was up to 70% more transmissible than the original virus.

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Printable version | May 19, 2021 4:04:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coronavirus-81-of-samples-in-punjab-turn-out-positive-for-uk-variant/article34140127.ece

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