Representational image of a health worker fitting an oxygen mask to a Covid-19 patient in Delhi | Photo: ANI
Representational image of a health worker fitting an oxygen mask to a Covid-19 patient in Delhi | Photo: ANI
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New Delhi: A meeting of the National Task Force (NTF) on Covid-19 convened by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Saturday decided there was no need to change the existing treatment protocols in India.

The decision came amid concerns of a new strain of the novel coronavirus in the UK which is said to be 70 per cent more infectious.

The meeting was convened under co-chairpersonship of Vinod Paul, member, Niti Aayog; and Dr Balram Bhargava, secretary, Department of Health Research and director general of ICMR. It was also attended by Dr Randeep Guleria, director, AIIMS.

Representatives of the Directorate General Health Services (DGHS), Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI); National Center for Disease Control (NCDC) and others from the health ministry as well as independent subject experts took part in the meeting.

“NTF concluded that there is no need to change the existing Treatment Protocol in view of mutations emerging in the strain. Further, since ICMR has always advocated use of two or more gene assays for testing SARS-CoV-2, it is unlikely to miss infected cases using the current testing strategy,” the government’s statement read.

The meeting was held to discuss evidence-based modifications in testing, treatment and surveillance strategies in view of the new Covid-19 strain. The experts, however, emphasised that it was critical to identify individuals infected with the new strain to prevent its transmission in India.

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Strategy to combat new virus strain

The NCDC informed the government that a strategy has been put in place to combat the new strain, that includes screening of all UK passengers who have entered India between 21 and 23 December.

RT-PCR tests were carried out on these passengers. Those who tested positive were put under institutional isolation and their samples sent for Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS), the NCDC said.

Only after confirmation of the non-mutant variant, were the positive cases permitted to leave institutional isolation. All contacts of those who tested positive were also put under facility quarantine and tested according to the ICMR guidelines.

In addition, passengers who had arrived from the UK between 25 November and 20 December were tracked by IDSP (Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme) State Surveillance Units (SSUs) and District Surveillance Units (DSUs).

Currently, 50 samples are being sequenced for the UK variant. In the long run, five per cent of samples from all states and union territories will also be sequenced for the UK variety. The NTF has also said that continued enhanced genomic surveillance will be done for early detection and containment of the UK variant.

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