In view of a mutated variant of coronavirus detected in the UK and elsewhere, the NITI Aayog clarified on Tuesday that there is no need to panic.

Niti Aayog’s Member, Health, Dr VK Paul said that the mutated variant of novel coronavirus does not increase the severity of Covid-19 disease or impact the propensity of vaccines available.

“As per the information available from the UK where the mutated variant was detected, it does not increase the severity of the disease, deaths and rate of hospitalisation. Besides, the studies also suggest that the available vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 are effective on the mutated strain as well,” he said.

“So there is no need to panic,” Paul added.

A new variant of SARS-CoV 2 virus, which is under investigation, has been reported by the UK government to the World Health Organization (WHO). This variant is estimated by the European Center for Disease Control (ECDC) to be more transmissible and affecting the younger population.

Scientists in the UK have observed 17 changes or mutations in the latest variant. One of the most significant mutations is the ‘N501Y’ mutation in the spike protein that the virus uses to bind to the human ACE2 receptor.

Changes in this part of the spike protein is responsible for the virus becoming more infectious and spreading further easily between people.

The UK government has reported the variant to be 70 per cent more infectious.

To contain the mutated variant from infiltrating the indian population, India has temporarily banned flights from the UK. The suspension of flights from the UK will come into effect from December 22 at midnight and will continue till December 31.

Further, the government has also ordered mandatory RT-PCR tests for the patients arriving from the UK. As per the latest information, five passengers were found to be Covid-19 positive on Tuesday.

The Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry has asked state governments to send the samples of the passengers who tested positive on arrival from the UK to the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune or any other appropriate lab for genomic sequencing study.

The genomic sequencing study would determine if the Covid patients are carrying the existing strain of SARS-CoV-2 or the mutant strain which was discovered in the UK.

If the samples indicate the presence of the new variant, the patient will continue to remain in a separate isolation unit while necessary treatment as per the existing protocol will be given, the Ministry said.

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