Published on March 7, 2021

AHMEDABAD: The state government has decided to send 5% of the RT-PCR positive cases randomly for genetic sequencing to ascertain the presence of different variants of Covid-19 in Gujarat. The decision has come in the wake of three Covid-19 cases in Surat which tested positive for the UK strain.

A K Naik, deputy municipal commissioner (health) at Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC), said that three persons, including a 17-year old boy from Athwa zone area, a 45-year-old man, and a 49-year-old woman from Adajan, had tested positive for the UK strain. “All have recovered now, and none suffered serious health issues,” he said. The three were found to have the strain during the random sampling by the health department.

More importantly, said state health department officials, the boy had a travel history to Delhi, but two others had no such history, indicating that the strain is already active in the state and can infect more.

Jayanti Ravi, principal secretary (health & family welfare), said that they have decided to send random 5% of the confirmed positive cases samples for genetic sequencing to identify the strains if any. “The surveillance on the ground has already been strengthened, along with testing of the passengers on the inter-state borders, airports and railway stations,” she said, adding that other major cities have not recorded any foreign strain case so far.

On an average, the state is recording about 520 daily positive cases. Thus, the daily strain testing may account for about 26 cases. The samples are typically sent to Gujarat Biotechnology Research Centre (GBRC) in Gandhinagar and National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune for genetic sequencing. Apart from the UK strain, globally two other strains from South Africa and Brazil have been reported. India has already recorded the first cases of all these strains so far.

Ravi and other senior officers had carried out a video conferencing with the district collectors and health officers on Saturday to take stock of the precautions. As health department officials pointed out, the discovery is important in the light of the steadily rising cases in the state for the past 10 days in Gujarat.

(With Yagnesh Mehta, Surat)

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