Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh
Eighty-one per cent of the 401 samples sent by the government for genome sequencing have tested positive for the UK variant of COVID-19, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said on Tuesday, and asked the Centre to widen the vaccination net to cover those younger than 60.
Expressing concern over the COVID-19 situation, the chief minister also appealed to people to get themselves vaccinated and stressed the need for the Central government to urgently open up vaccination for a larger section of the population.
He urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to widen the vaccination ambit to cover those younger than 60 as the mutant has been found to be infecting young people more, an official statement quoting him said.
The process needs to be expedited," he said, pointing to the fact that experts had found the Covishield vaccine to be equally effective against the UK variant - B.1.1.7. It was essential to vaccinate more and more people to break the chain of transmission, he said.
The state government, which has already announced fresh restrictions, would be forced to impose more curbs if people don't follow Covid appropriate behaviour, Amarinder Singh warned.
The appeal from the chief minister came after head of the state's Covid expert committee Dr K K Talwar apprised him of developments on the new variant in the state, which has been witnessing a surge in the number of cases in the last few weeks.
The chief minister had been informed by Talwar that though the UK variant B.1.1.7 is more infectious it is not more virulent.
The state health department had sent 478 COVID positive samples to NIB (National Institute of Biologicals), IGIB (Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, Delhi), and NCDC (National Centre for Disease Control) for genome sequencing, of which results of 90 samples were received and those showed only two samples for N440K (a coronavirus variant).
Subsequently, a team from the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India, visited the state to review the increase in positivity, the statement said. The team was also informed about the pending results of genome sequencing, it added.
Thereafter, 401 more samples, collected between 1.1.2021 to 10.3.2021, were sent to NCDC for genome sequencing. The result of these samples was worrying as it showed presence of B.1.1.7 variant in 326 COVID samples, the statement said quoting Talwar.
On Monday, Punjab reported 2,319 fresh COVID-19 cases, taking the tally to 2,15,409, and 58 fatalities, pushing the death toll to 6,382.