- All five travellers and their contacts have been tested and quarantined
- South African variant is circulating in 41 countries, including US
- There are 187 cases of the UK strain in India, the government said
A few cases of the more infectious South African and Brazilian strains of the coronavirus have been detected in India and people flying in from those countries may be tested more aggressively, the government said today.
The South African strain of the coronavirus has been detected in four people in the country and the Brazil variant has been seen in one, according to top medical body Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). All five have been quarantined.
"ICMR-NIV is attempting to isolate and culture the South African variant of SARS-CoV-2, while the Brazil variant of SAS-CoV-2 has been isolated and cultured at ICMR-NIV-Pune," ICMR Director General Balram Bhargava told reporters at the health ministry briefing on Covid.
There are 187 cases of the UK strain in India, Dr Bhargava said.
All their contacts have been isolated and tested.
The Health Ministry said all the rules for travellers from the UK - Covid negative reports and RT-PCR tests for every passenger - are likely to be followed for flights from South Africa and Brazil.
"We have done disembarkations, mandatory RT-PCR tests for travelers coming from UK. Those who tested positive, their genome sequencing is being done. This is a good strategy. I hope... we might follow this similar strategy for flights from South Africa and Brazil," said Rajesh Bhushan, Health Secretary.
"There are no direct flights from South Africa or Brazil, so the health ministry and the civil aviation ministry are in touch on the steps to be taken on the matter," he said.
According to the ICMR chief, existing vaccines have the potential to neutralise the UK variant and experiments are on to assess the effectiveness of the vaccines against the South African and Brazilian variants.
The South African variant is circulating in 41 countries around the world, including the US.
The four people who have tested positive for the strain in India are from Angola, Tanzania and South Africa.
The UK variant has spread to 82 countries and the Brazilian strain of Covid has spread to nine countries.
The cases have emerged at a time there has been a sharp drop in the number of Covid cases in India, with just a few states like Maharashtra and Kerala battling a spike.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the new strains are more contagious and spread faster, and vaccines could be less effective on these patients, although there is no proof.
All three strains have gone through changes to their spike protein, or the part of the virus which attaches to human cells, and they seem to be better at infecting cells, according to scientists.
The South African and Brazilian strains can more easily infect a person's lungs than the UK mutation, scientists say.