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Devbrat Patnaik

Bhubaneswar: At a time when the State is witnessing a decline in daily Covid positives, a mutated and more aggressive strain of coronavirus in the United Kingdom seems to have become a cause of serious concern for people in Odisha. Even though flights from UK have been temporarily suspended, the State government has pulled up its socks to battle the uncertain threat.

In view of this, the health department has asked senior health officials and district administration for active surveillance of persons who have returned from UK in the last 14 days, with effect from December 7, 2020.

The department has shared the list of persons returning from UK during last 14 days as shared by Delhi Disaster Management Authority. "A mutated strain of SARS-CoV-2 reported from United Kingdom has been implicated to have higher transmissibility as compared to the earlier strains. It is therefore requested to undertake intense surveillance, contact tracing, RT-PCR test of all incoming passengers from the UK as well as all the persons coming in contact with the incoming passengers to prevent the spread of the mutated COVID virus in the State," H&FW has mentioned.

Meanwhile, the government employees in Ganjam district have been asked not to leave/move out of headquarters without permission in view of the discovery of a mutated strain of COVID-19 in UK. The Collector has asked officials to check large public congregations at picnic spots and beaches.

"Three persons have returned to Berhampur from the UK, 1 of them has been traced. Now that a new COVID strain has been identified in UK, we have to remain extra cautious at least until a vaccine arrives. Preventive actions will be initiated to regulate large congregation of public," said Ganjam Collector Vijay Amruta Kulange while flagging off of 'Covid Sachetanata Rath' in the district today.

Guidance for sample collection, storage, transport for genome sequencing of SARS-CoV-2

The State Health and Family Welfare department has also issued guidelines for sample collection, storage, and transport for genome sequencing of SARS-CoV-2, and the same has been addressed to the Directors of National Health Mission (NHM) and Odisha State Medical Corporation Limited (OSMCL), district Collectors, Municipal Commissioners, district health officials, and government hospital superintendents.

"A mutated strain of SARS-CoV-2 has been detected in UK which is spreading and growing rapidly. This strain has been reported to have higher transmissibility as compared to the earlier strains. Hence, intense screening of all incoming passengers frorn the UK is required to prevent spread of the mutated virus in India. All incoming passengers will be subjected to RTPCR test followed by genome sequencing at the designated laboratories," stated the H&FW department.

It is to mention here that DBT-Institute of Life Sciences, Bhubaneswar has been declared as the designated laboratory for SARS-CoV-2-genome sequencing, and process of sample collection, storage and transport and sequencing would be as per the Centre's guidelines.

The officials have been asked to take necessary steps to contain the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and adhere strictly to the guidelines for sample collection, storage, and transport of samples for sequencing at the designated laboratory.

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