Govt alert, no need to panic: Harsh Vardhan on new COVID-19 strain

Experts from AIIMS, ICMR and a WHO representative are due to meet in Delhi over the new strain spreading quickly in UK, forcing many countries to limit flights from Britain

Speaking at the Question Hour in Lok Sabha, Harsh Vardhan said nearly 50 lakh people have received the jabs so far.

Ahead of the Union Health Ministry’s top advisory body’s meeting to discuss the new strain of the mutated coronavirus as reported by the UK, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Monday (December 21) appealed to people not to panic. He said the government was on alert.

“In the last one year, as you all have seen, we took all necessary measures to ensure the safety of people. We’re aware of what all needs to be done. There’s no reason to panic. Let me tell you that our scientists are closely keeping an eye on every development,” the Health Minister said.

The new variant of the deadly virus is reportedly more infectious as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Saturday (December 20) new restrictions. Several European Union countries and Canada were banning or limiting some flights from the UK to try to limit any spread.

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The new variant, first detected in September, is rapidly replacing other versions of the virus. It has mutations that affect part of the virus likely to be important; and some of those mutations have already been shown in the lab to increase the ability of the virus to infect cells.

In Delhi, experts from AIIMS and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), along with a representative from the World Health Organisation (WHO), will attend the meeting on Monday (December 21).

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also urged the Centre to immediately ban all flights from the UK over the “super-spreader” mutation.

“New mutation of coronavirus has emerged in UK, which is a super-spreader. I urge Central government to ban all flights from UK immediately,” the CM tweeted.

India reported 24,337 COVID-19 cases early Monday. So far, more than one crore and 55 thousand people have been infected with the virus. With 333 deaths reported on Sunday, the toll touched 1,45,810. There are 3.03 lakh active cases in the country, while 96,06,111 people have recovered from the disease. Kerala is the only state to report more than 5,000 cases.

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In a related development, India’s top regulator has told three vaccine manufacturers for additional data on the phase-III trials to consider clearing their candidates for emergency use, the Health Minister said on Sunday. He said India could be in a position to begin administering the vaccine next month.