81 per cent of Punjab COVID-19 samples sent for genome sequencing show new UK variant

Express News Service
CHANDIGARH: Of the 401 COVID-19 positive samples sent by Punjab for genome sequencing, 81 per cent showed the new UK variant.

The 401 samples collected between January 1 and March 10 were sent to the NCDC for genome sequencing. The results were worrying as it showed the presence of the UK variant B.1.1.7 in 326 samples, said Dr KK Talwar, head of the state Covid expert committee.

Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh said he had been informed by Talwar that though this UK variant is more infectious, it is not more virulent. Further, the Covishield vaccine is equally effective against this new UK variant.

It is noteworthy that the B.1.1.7 variant is now spreading rapidly in many parts of the world, representing 98 per cent of the new cases in UK and 90 per cent in Spain. UK authorities have suggested it is up to 70 per cent more transmissible than the original virus.

Amarinder has appealed to the people to get themselves vaccinated, even as he urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to widen the vaccination ambit to cover those younger than 60 since this mutant has been found to be infecting young people more. Expressing concern over the emerging situation, Amarinder stressed the need for the central government to urgently open up vaccination for a bigger section of the populace.

The process needs to be expedited, he said pointing to the fact that experts had found the existing Covishield vaccine to be equally effective against the UK variant – B.1.1.7. It was essential to vaccinate more and more people to break the chain of transmission, he added.

He also urged people to strictly adhere to all Covid safety protocols including wearing of masks and maintaining social distancing. The state government, which has already announced fresh restrictions, would be forced to impose more curbs if the people do not follow Covid appropriate behaviour, he warned.