New COVID-19 Variant: Government on Alert Mode, Testing to be Ramped UP

As multiple cases of new coronavirus disease (Covid-19) variant 8.1.1529 had detected from international travelers coming from or transiting through Botswana, South Africa and Hong Kong, the Indian Government has sounded high alert and directed states to ramp up rigorous screening and testing of all international travelers. Recently Botswana, South Africa, and Hong Kong have reported multiple cases of new coronavirus disease (Covid-19) variant 8.1.1529 that is reported to have a significantly high number of mutations.

In a letter to states issued late on Thursday, union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan cautioned that this variant is reported to have a significantly high number of mutations, and thus, has serious public health implications for the country in view of recently relaxed visa restrictions and opening up of international travel.

Meanwhile, India reported a rise in daily coronavirus cases. With 10,549 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, the active cases stand at 1,10,133, the Ministry said today. As many as 488 people have succumbed to the COVID-19 infection in the country in the last 24 hours.

The testing capacity across the country continues to be expanded. The last 24 hours saw a total of 11,81,246 tests being conducted. India has so far conducted over 63.71 Cr (63,71,06,009) cumulative tests. Till today, India’s COVID-19 vaccination coverage has exceeded 120.27 crore .

According to international media reports, the new variant has a spike protein that was dramatically different to the one in the original coronavirus that COVID-19 vaccines are based on. And it could make existing vaccines less effective. Britain has banned flights from six African countries and asked returning British travellers from those destinations to quarantine.


The new variant, identified as B.1.1.529, carries a high number of mutations in its spike protein, which plays a key role in the virus’ entry into cells in the body. Researchers are still trying to determine whether it is more transmissible or more lethal than previous ones. The WHO would also deliberate on  B.1.1.529 and decide if it will be officially designated a variant of concern.