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Bengal reports 1st case of new Covid strain, state takes additional steps to curb spread

Bengal reports 1st case of new Covid strain, state takes additional steps to curb spread
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Kolkata: Bengal has reported its first case of a mutant Coronavirus strain that surfaced in the United Kingdom, a senior health official said on Wednesday.

The new and more transmissible strain has now been detected in a London returnee, a son of a top official of the Calcutta Medical College and Hospital (CMCH) prompting the state Health department to hold a meeting to chalk out plans as to what preventive measures ought to be taken in the wake of the latest threat.

The youth infected with the more contagious strain has been admitted to a complete isolation ward situated on the seventh floor of the superspecialty block of the CMCH. The victim returned to the city from London earlier this month and he is among the two UK returnees who tested positive for Covid.

The Health department had sent his samples to the National Institute of Biomedical Genomics in Kalyani for genetic analysis along with the samples of seven others who had travelled with him. The reports of the other six came negative but his sample was sent for another test at the National Centre for Diseases Control as his report was inconclusive. The state government would share the data with the Centre as well as per the protocol, a health official said.

The family members of the victim have been put in isolation and they are under constant monitoring. The Health department is preparing a list of those who came in contact with the youth, including the crew members of the airlines. The department has already started the process of identifying those who came in contact with the infected patient and would have to undergo Covid tests, sources in the health department said. The Union Health ministry has written to the Health Secretaries of all states and issued a Standard Operating Procedure (SoP) for epidemiological surveillance and response in the context of a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 virus. In case of positive samples, the spike gene-based RT-PCR tests should also be performed, mentions the SoP.

Highly-placed sources in the Health department said contract tracing has been initiated and it is assumed that more than 500 people might have come in contact with him. They are under scanner. "RT-PCR would be conducted on all of them who came in contact with the infected youth. They will also be put under isolation. Those who have returned in the same flight are being contacted by the department to know about their health condition," a senior health official said.

More than 4,000 passengers, who have returned to the state from November 25 till December 21, before the Centre suspended the flights from the UK, are being tracked by the Health department. They all would remain under direct surveillance especially after the new strain found in a Kolkata resident. All of them would also undergo RT-PCR tests. In some cases, however, the Health department has failed to get in touch with the passengers as the contact numbers given by the Centre were not functioning.

"The mutant strain found in the UK returnee is believed to be more harmful as it has the capacity of transmitting faster than the earlier variant. Research is being conducted worldwide about the changes and mutations in the spike protein of the virus. There is nothing to panic as the Health department is keeping a close watch on the situation," said senior pathologist Dr G Mukherjee.

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