EDITORIAL | With vaccines around the corner, new coronavirus strain takes centre stage
FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK:
Just as many of us started asking ourselves what could be worse than COVID-19, a new strain of the virus, first detected in England, has now hit other European nations.
And unfortunately, it would not be long before it spreads to other parts of the world.
The global economy went down the drain in 2020, thanks to COVID-19. While many termed this year as the worst year of the 21st century, others looked at it as a window of opportunities to sit back, reflect and introspect.
Yes, 2020 had thrown normal life out of gear with the education sector being hit the most especially in a country like India where according to Macro Trends, the rural population stood at 65.53 in 2019; which means very few have access to good internet connectivity to pursue online learning.
Sure enough, when COVID-19 started finding its way into India, many called it the “rich man's disease” as the carriers were people coming in from other countries.
Since its outbreak in January, the overall positive cases in the country stood at 1,01,87,850 with 2,78,690 active cases, 97 lakh recoveries and over 1 lakh deaths, as of December 27.
Adjusting to the new normal was yet to set in when this new mutant strain was detected in the UK recently.
The National COVID-19 task force met on Saturday and discussed surveillance strategies. Over 50 samples of people who returned from the UK are currently being sequenced at six labs across the country to determine if they have the mutant strain.
The Union Health Ministry, on December 26, had said five per cent of the coronavirus positive cases from all states and UTs would be tested for Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) to detect and contain the mutant variant.
“It is proposed to continue enhanced genomic surveillance for early detection and containment of the UK variant SARS-CoV-2 strains. However, it is important to understand that like all other RNA viruses, SARS-CoV-2 will continue to mutate,” the health ministry said.
It also said measures like social distancing, hand hygiene and wearing masks could contain the mutated coronavirus, including effective vaccines.
All states are on high alert, and the health ministry issued advisories to the respective states to enhance testing capacities with UK returnees being traced and strictly monitored.
When people are looking forward to a new year with hopes of vaccination programmes being rolled out, fear over the fast-spreading variant has gripped the country, though scientists do not think the new variant is more deadly or resistant to the current coronavirus vaccines.