Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Tuesday urged the Centre to widen its ongoing vaccination drive to include people younger than 60 years of age as he pointed out that the UK variant of the coronavirus has been found to be infecting the younger population more.
Genome sequencing was done on 401 samples from Punjab recently and the results showed 81 per cent samples were of the B117 virus, which started spreading in the UK since November.
“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 said.
The chief minister also urged people to strictly follow all Covid protocols, including wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. The state government, which has already announced fresh restrictions to contain the spread of the viral disease, would be forced to impose more curbs “if the people do not follow the Covid appropriate behaviour”, he warned.
According to the statement, the head of Punjab’s Covid-19 expert committee, Dr KK Talwar, apprised the chief minister of the developments on the new variant in the state, which has been witnessing a surge in the number of positive cases in the last few weeks.
“The state health department had sent 478 COVID positive samples to NIB, IGIB, and NCDC for genome sequencing, of which results of 90 samples were received and those showed only two samples for N440K variant,” it said.
A team from the Union ministry of health and family welfare, which was in the state to review the increase in positivity, was informed about the pending results of genome sequencing.
“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 the presence of B.1.1.7 variant in 326 Covid samples, said Dr Talwar,” the statement added.
Singh, the statement said, has been informed by Dr Talwar that though this UK variant B.1.1.7 is more infectious yet not more virulent.
The B.1.1.7 variant is now spreading rapidly in many parts of the world, representing 98% of the new cases in the UK and 90% in Spain. The UK authorities have suggested it is up to 70% more transmissible than the original virus.
Punjab along with Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh and Tamil Nadu collectively account for 80.90 per cent of the 40,715 infections reported in a span of 24 hours, according to the Union health ministry.
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.