AS MANY as 16 passengers who flew in from UK tested positive for the novel coronavirus, even as the state government sent their samples to National Institute of Virology in Pune for genome sequencing. This is to ascertain if any of them are carrying the mutated variant, called B.1.1.7 lineage, responsible for a fresh widespread transmission wave in UK.
Since December 21, when screening and testing of passengers returning from UK began at all international airports, 1,122 passengers have been tested. Out of the 16 people who tested positive, four are from Nagpur, three each from Mumbai and Thane, two from Pune, and one each from Nanded, Ahmednagar, Raigad and Aurangabad.
The state health department has undertaken contact tracing of all positive cases. Out of 72 high-risk contacts, two have tested positive for the virus and have been isolated. Their samples have also been sent for genome sequencing. The state epidemiology cell is also reaching out to all passengers who have flown in from UK since November 25. The passengers will be asked to observe quarantine for 14 days and screened for fever, cough, and other symptoms of the infection.
The B.1.1.7 lineage is a new mutation in the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The mutation has occurred in the spike protein, making it easier for the virus to replicate and transmit from one person to another. It is normal for a virus to mutate as it spreads from one host to another, but this particular variant has become a concern for its infectivity speed. In Kerala too, health minister K K Shailaja announced mutation in coronavirus different from the UK variant.
Maharashtra, so far, has reported 19.16 lakh Covid-19 cases and 49,189 deaths till December 26. On Saturday, it had at least 58,091 active cases, of which 8,262 cases are in Mumbai, 10,537 in Thane and 14,558 in Pune. Nagpur, Pune and Mumbai are the only three districts recording more than 200 fresh cases daily. Thane recorded 95 cases on Saturday.