Fourteen more people were found infected with the UK strain of the coronavirus on Wednesday in the country, with West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh reporting such cases for the first time, taking the total tally to 20 in two days.
A cautious government extended the temporary suspension of passenger flights between the UK and India for a week till January 7 and said the services would resume in a “strictly regulated” manner thereafter.
According to local authorities, a number of UK returnees in states like Maharashtra, Odisha, Karnataka and Punjab remained untraceable and efforts were on to contact them.
The Centre had last week directed that about 33,000 passengers who had arrived in India from November 25 to December 23 midnight, will be tracked and subjected to RT-PCR tests along with their contacts by states and Union Territories, and the positive samples will be sent for genome sequencing.
To detect cases of the new strain, the government has now directed genome sequencing of samples from all passengers who arrived in India from December 9 to 22 and tested positive for COVID-19 or were symptomatic as it ramped up the surveillance and containment strategy.
At least six cases of the new strain were reported on Monday. Among the new cases, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh reported one and two respectively among the UK returnees, according to state authorities.
The Union Health Ministry said the mutated UK strain has so far been detected in eight samples at the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in Delhi.
Official sources said among the eight people was the woman who left Delhi and travelled to Andhra Pradesh last week by train. The remaining seven are in quarantine at the LokNayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital (LNJP) in the national capital. Two cases have been detected at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad, it said.