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. Singh said that the process needs to be expedited, pointing that experts have found the existing 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, according to a statement released by his office.
According to the statement, 81% of the latest 401 samples sent by the state for genome sequencing were positive for the new UK Covid variant.
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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.
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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.
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. There were 2,299 infections in the northern state on Monday, the highest daily infections reported this year, pushing its tally to 215,409. According to the health ministry, Punjab reported 58 fatalities which have pushed its death toll to 6,382.