Nagpur: After a spike in cases in Botswana, South Africa and Hongkong, the central government has asked the states to conduct ‘rigorous screening and testing’ of all the international travelers who are entering the country.
The new variant reported from South Africa is said to have a significantly high number of mutations and thus has serious public health implications for the country, the health ministry stated. Botswana has so far reported three cases, six cases reported from South Africa and one case from Hong Kong.
The new Covid-19 variant B.1.1.529 has been red-flagged by scientists globally over an alarming high number of spike mutations which would increase its resistance to the vaccines, increase transmissibility and lead to more severe symptoms.
The variant has 50 mutations overall, including more than 30 on the spike protein alone. According to Director of the UCL Genetics Institute, Francois Balloux, the new variant may have evolved from a single patient- possibly a chronic infection of an immuno-compromised person. The strain has spread to nearby countries, including Botswana, where even the fully vaccinated people have been infected. Over 100 cases have been linked to this variant till now in the country.
Two cases have also been detected in Hong Kong, where two travelers arriving from southern Africa had been quarantined.
Epidemiologist Dr Eric Feigl-Ding tweeted, “What is more worrying is the patients were in separate rooms, suggesting the variant is airborne. “… looks like vaccine evasion could be real with this variant… and yes, it is very airborne. Hotel guests were in different rooms across the hallway. Environmental samples found the virus in 25 of 87 swabs across both rooms.”
The United Kingdom has moved quickly to suspend six flights from African countries, including Botswana and South Africa.