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Vikash Sharma

Bhubaneswar: As many as 62 travellers, who returned to Odisha from the United Kingdom recently, have reportedly gone untraceable.

The disappearance of the UK returnees has sent alarm bells ringing among health officials and the authorities engaged in the battle against Covid-19 especially in the background of fears that some of them might be carrying the deadly mutant strain of the virus.

Dr. Niranjan Mishra, director Public Health (Odisha) on Monday said that around 181 travellers returned to the State from UK between November 30 and December 20, 2020.

Of the total returnees, 119 persons underwent the COVID-19 test in different phases and six of them tested positive for coronavirus.

“It appears the 62 returnees had either given wrong address or telephone numbers in the declaration forms which has resulted in their tracing or contacting difficult,” said Mishra.

Mishra however said that there was no need to panic as all the 62 persons have already completed the 14-day quarantine period, irrespective of their whereabouts. “We are trying to trace them so that their genome sequencing can be conducted to find if they are COVID-19 positive.”

Earlier, the Centre had issued advisory to all state governments and UTs to trace and conduct COVID-19 test of UK returnees after new strain of the virus was detected in the English islands in September 2020.

As per the advisory, swab samples of those travellers, who test positive for COVID-19 upon their return to India, will be sent for genome sequencing to ascertain whether they are infected with the mutant strain.

For genome sequencing, the Centre has identified 6 institutes and laboratories including the one at Bhubaneswar.

In Bengaluru, the sequencing will be conducted at the National Centre of Biological Sciences and Institute for Stem Cell Science and Regenerative Medicine.

The other five laboratories include, the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, New Delhi; Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad; Institute of Life Sciences, Bhubaneswar; National Institute of Biomedical Genomics, Kalyani and National Institute of Virology, Pune.

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