Thursday, December 31, 2020

Kolkata flyer from London tests positive for mutated virus

Kolkata: A city-based UK professional, who flew back home from London on an Air India flight on December 20 and tested Covid-positive on arrival, has the mutated UK strain of the virus, the Kalyani-based National Institute of Biomedical Genomics (NIBG) informed the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Bengal government late on Tuesday.

“The results have been shared with NCDC and West Bengal government. One RNA sample showed 17 mutations specific to the UK Covid strains,” NIBG director Saumitra Das told TOI.

The professional, in his late 30s, is completely asymptomatic. “He does not need any specialised treatment,” said an official at Medical College Hospital, Kolkata.

Bengal health department officials on Wednesday held a meeting with experts and decided to immediately conduct fresh RT-PCR tests on all 225 other passengers who had flown into Kolkata on the same flight, which had taken off from Heathrow on December 19 and touched down in Kolkata on December 20. All passengers are in home quarantine. The reports will be sent to NCDC.

The airline has already got the cabin and cockpit crew of flight AI 1150 tested for Cov-id. All of them have tested negative.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee, sources said, has stressed that the matter should be dealt with in due seriousness. Chief secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay, too, issued a reminder about the need to celebrate the New Year in a guarded way. “Let us be careful and help navigate the year-end festivals safely,” he said.

Das, the NIBG director, said: “At this point, while we must be very cautious, I would like to reiterate that there is no experimental evidence other than epidemiological and mathematical research models on the implications of these mutations. This is also the issue with disease severity. Further research with the mutated strain is needed to understand the functional implications better. So, it is too early to conclusively say anything.”

A official at Medical College Hospital, Kolkata, spelt out the measures that have been taken. “The patient has been kept in isolation in a single cabin right from day one. He does not have any symptoms, and therefore, needs no specialised treatment. However, doctors will continue to keep him under close monitoring. For now, he will remain in hospital isolation. He would undergo an RT-PCR test in about a week’s time. If he is found negative, we will inform Swasthya Bhawan. We will then take a decision on his discharge according to the SOPs issued by Swasthya Bhawan officials.”

31/12/20 Times of India

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