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COVID-19: Mutation found here is insignificant says NITI Aayog

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New Delhi, Dec 23: "The country is witnessing less than three Lakh active cases after almost five months. This is a landmark achievement." Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said this in a press briefing on the actions taken, preparedness and updates on COVID-19, held at the National Media Centre in New Delhi today. He also appreciated the efforts of frontline workers, doctors, paramedics and the administration in achieving this remarkable position. "India has conducted more than 16.3 Crore COVID-19 tests so far and daily new COVID cases reported is less than 20,000 as of now", he added.

COVID-19: Mutation found here is insignificant says NITI Aayog

Bhushan pointed out the surge in other countries like the USA, with four lakh cases reported in the last 24 hours, Brazil, UK, Russia and Germany which are showing new peaks in COVID cases. "In comparison, India's trajectory has shown sustained decline in COVID cases since mid-September", he added.

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"India continues to be among nations with the lowest COVID cases per million population and lowest deaths per million population. New COVID cases as well as new COVID deaths per million population reported in the last 7 days are also among the lowest. Average daily new cases have shown a continuous decline from 46,301 during the first week of November to 24,135 this week. Average daily deaths has also come down from 556 during the first week of November to 343 this week. Total active COVID- 19 cases is less than 3% and India's recovery rate is more than 95%", said Shri Bhushan.

Speaking about the statewise case load, he mentioned that six states/UTs - Kerala, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Chattisgarh, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh - account for 57% of new cases reported in the last 24 hours. 61% of deaths reported in the last 24 hours are from six states/UTs with maximum deaths in Maharashtra (55). On a positive note he mentioned that with the steady decline in COVID cases 26 States/Uts have less than 10,000 active cases as of now.

Speaking about the mutant Coronavirus in the United Kingdom, Member, Health, NITI Aayog, Dr. V.K. Paul said, ' There is no need to panic. We are yet to spot such a virus in our country for which there are intensive efforts in the offing. This virus increases infectiousness but does not increase propensity for death or hospitalization or severity of the disease.' He also mentioned that this will have no impact on the potential of emerging vaccines that are being developed in our country and other countries. He also emphasised that there are no changes in the current treatment guidelines. "Mutation is a very common behaviour in viruses. The current mutation says that 17 mutations have happened all at once. Its tendency to enter our cell has become higher. Transmissibility has increased with this mutation," he added.

Dr. Paul informed about the steps taken in this regard. Indian Council of Medical Research and Department of Bio Technology have started genomic sequencing of samples collected at their designated laboratories. "Genomic sequencing of viruses in the country is being done. No such mutation has been shown in the samples in the country. The mutation found here is insignificant", he said. He also mentioned that the passengers who had returned from the UK are to be contacted; their clinical issues to be understood and tests to be conducted and their specimen will be subjected to genetic sequencing. In addition to this he pointed out that temporary travel restrictions have been imposed to and from UK.

"We have to be vigilant and intensify our comprehensive effort in suppressing the virus by following COVID appropriate behaviours. We are satisfied with the declining trend in COVID cases in the country. We have to maintain this momentum. We cannot afford to lose what we have gained so far in bringing down COVID cases in the country. Take special care of elders at home, use Aarogya Setu App and also stay away from partying in large groups. Celebrate at home with your family", he cautioned about the upcoming festival season.

In reply to a query on steps taken by the Government with respect to the travellers who had already returned from the UK during the past few days, Health Secretary mentioned that thousands of genome sequences have been done during the pandemic. Also names of travellers who had arrived from/through UK between 25th November and 23rd December will be shared by the Bureau of immigration to the respective States/UTs. The concerned State Surveillance Officer will contact, conduct tests and take actions as per the results.

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