New Delhi:

The total number of cases with the UK, South Africa and Brazil variants of SARS-CoV-2 in the country has reached 795, the Union Health Ministry said on Tuesday as India is witnessing a surge in COVID-19 cases.

From 400 cases reported on March 18, the infections by mutant strains have increased to 795 in the country.

Minister of State for Health Ashwini Choubey told Rajya Sabha on March 16 that no case of reinfection by mutant variants of SARS-CoV-2 virus has been reported from India so far.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), in the three countries where the pandemic is being driven by the variant mutants of SARS-CoV-2 virus, namely the UK, South Africa and Brazil, the South African and Brazilian variants have the potential to reinfect persons who have been previously infected with SARS-CoV-2, he said in a written reply.

A genomic consortium of 10 regional laboratories with the National Center for Disease Control as the apex laboratory was established in December-end for laboratory and epidemiological surveillance of circulating strains of SARS-CoV-2 in the country.

The UK variant of SARS-CoV-2 was first reported in India on December 29.

A total of 40,715 coronavirus infections were reported in a day, taking the nationwide COVID-19 tally to 1,16,86,796, while the number of active cases registered an increased for the 13th day in a row and was recorded at 3,45,377, according to Union health ministry data updated on Tuesday.

In Punjab, 81 per cent of the 401 samples sent by the government for genome sequencing have tested positive for the UK variant of COVID-19, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said, asking the Centre to widen the vaccination net to cover those younger than 60. 

No new strain of novel coronavirus detected in Maharashtra, Kerala and Punjab: Govt

No new strain of the novel coronavirus has been detected in Maharashtra, Kerala and Punjab and the recent surge in infections in these states are due to SARS-CoV-2 that has been driving the pandemic for over a year, Rajya Sabha was informed on Tuesday.

In written reply to a question, Minister of State for Health Ashwini Choubey said that after the detection of variants of SARS-CoV-2 in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil, the Government of India put in a surveillance mechanism for international travellers and in the community to detect these known variants.

Till March 18, the number of samples testing positive for mutant virus variants is 400 across the country, he said.

"No new strain of COVID-19 virus has been detected in Maharashtra, Kerala and Punjab. The surge in COVID-19 cases witnessed now in these states are due to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that is driving the pandemic since last year," Choubey said.

The Union Health Ministry on Tuesday said the total number of cases with the UK, South Africa and Brazil variants of SARS-CoV-2 in the country has reached 795.

The government has taken a series of actions to prevent entry and spread of known mutant variants of SARS-CoV-2 in India, Choubey said in the written reply.

On measures to detect coronavirus variants, he said these include point-of-entry surveillance and pre-arrival and post-arrival testing for all international travellers coming through flights originating from the United Kingdom, Europe and the Middle East, mandatory home quarantine for 14 days with an option of testing after seven days of arrival in India.

For those travellers testing positive, separate isolation facilities and separate quarantine facilities for their contacts have been arranged. Besides, a consortium of 10 laboratories is testing the positive samples of such travellers arriving via flights originating from the UK, Europe and the Middle East and monitoring the variant virus.

In addition, five per cent of the positive samples from the community are being tested and monitored for genomic changes in SARS-CoV-2, he said.

For management and containment of the COVID-19 pandemic, financial support has been provided to all states and union territories under the National Health Mission (NHM) and the India COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health System Preparedness Package during 2019-20 and 2020-21.

No case of misuse of funds has so far been reported, he said in reply to another question.