SA reports new COVID variant; UK strain fans out to N Ireland, Israel

Vaccine maker Moderna hopes its COVID vaccine candidate will be successful against the new strain

India on Sunday recorded 18,732 COVID-19 cases, the lowest in six months. Representational image: iStock

Amid growing concerns about mutated coronavirus strain found in the UK, yet another variant has been detected in South Africa, media reports said.

South Africa’s health department said last week that a new genetic mutation of the virus had been discovered and might be responsible for a recent surge in infections in the country. UK has suspended flights from South Africa.

“Thanks to the impressive genomic capability of the South Africans, we’ve detected two cases of another new variant of coronavirus here in the UK,” UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock Hancock told the media. “Both are contacts of cases who have travelled from South Africa over the past few weeks.”

The UK strain, 70 per cent more transmissible, has reportedly reached Northern Ireland and Israel. Over 40 nations have suspended flights from the UK to stop the UK virus variant from spreading.

In India, suspension of flights between to and from UK will has come into effect on Wednesday and will be in place till December 31. Around 70 flights between India and the UK have been cancelled. As many as 11 UK returnees have tested positive for COVID-19 at Delhi airport.

Also read: New COVID strain: Flights from SA, Aus, European nations on govt radar

The Civil Aviation Ministry has said passengers from the UK will have to undergo RT-PCR test upon arrival at the airport. As per the procedure, the passengers will stay at the airport while the report is awaited.

Delhi’s IGI Airport has arranged a separate lounge to prevent infection from spreading. If the RT-PCR report is found positive, a passenger will be shifted to institutional quarantine for seven days. If found negative, the passenger will be told to isolate at home for a week.

Also read: Govt says new COVID strain not found in India, issues fresh SOP for UK travellers

Meanwhile, Moderna has expressed hope that its COVID vaccine candidate will be successful against the new coronavirus strain. Moderna has said it plans to run tests to confirm the vaccine’s activity against any strain. Apart from Moderna, Pfizer and AstraZeneca are also hopeful of their vaccines being effective against the mutant virus.

Drugmaker Roche has offered reassurances that the accuracy of diagnostic tests used to detect Covid-19 was unlikely to be affected by the fast-spreading mutant strain of the virus.