Guard up against emerging threat of new variant: Govt

Representational Pic

The government has said that it is putting in intensive efforts to ensure J&K remains safe from the emerging threat of a new variant of coronavirus being reported from UK and some other parts of Europe.

Financial Commissioner Health and Medical Education (H&ME), Atal Dulloo said the J&K government was keeping a vigil on the emerging situation across Europe and in other parts of the country. He said the hospitals and the allied sectors had been put on “high alert” and no lowering of guard could take place even as the new cases were down across the two divisions.

“The situation right now is a cause of concern, particularly the way cases are multiplying in some parts of the world,” he said.

Meanwhile, J&K government made it mandatory for all travelers arriving from UK to get an RT-PR test. The Government of India has also called for genome testing of COVID19 positive passengers arriving from UK.

The financial commissioner said that all activities of testing, quarantine and vaccine preparation were unaffected by the emerging concern. He said that the hospitals in all the districts had been prepared for vaccination.

“We have submitted our logistic details to GoI and they have given a go-ahead on the facilities where the vaccines will be stored and administered,” he said.

While the government said it was “watching” the situation “closely”, many doctors working with COVID19 patients have expressed the need for making RT-PCR testing mandatory for people arriving into J&K.

A senior doctor working at GMC Srinagar said that due to the high probability of false negatives using Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT), the government must ensure that all people arriving from outside into J&K be tested using the RT-PCR test.

“Currently, all our medical colleges have been empowered to do RT-PCR tests with equipment upgradation and the government must ensure that these facilities are put to use and safety from the new variant ensured,” he said.

Head of the Department of Internal and Pulmonary Medicine, SKIMS and an influenza expert, Prof Parvaiz A Koul said that the new variant of the virus appeared not to have any impact on testing, treatment or vaccine. “It just seems to affect different individuals differently but let’s watch how it unfolds,” he said.

Prof Koul said testing with RT-PCR was time consuming and RAT was “a triaging test” being used across the countries. “We may soon have other modes of testing, breath or sputum, but they are yet to be approved,” he said.

On Wednesday, World Health Organisation (WHO) said there was no evidence that the new variant was “more likely to cause severe disease or mortality as of now”.