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India detects 20 cases of new UK Covid-19 strain

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New Delhi, December 30

, 2020 (PTI): Twenty people who returned   to India from the United Kingdom have tested positive for the new UK variant genome of SARS-CoV-2 so far, India’s Union Health Ministry said on Wednesday.

The tally includes six people who were found positive for the new virus strain on Tuesday.

The ministry said the mutated UK strain was detected in eight samples at the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), one at the National Institute of Biomedical Genomics (NIBMG), Kalyani (near Kolkata), one at the National Institute of Virology (NIV) Pune, seven at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences Hospital (NIMHANS)Bengaluru, two at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad and one at the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), Delhi.

The ministry on Tuesday said six UK returnees were found positive for the mutated UK variant genome and that all these people have been kept in single room isolation at designated health care facilities by respective state governments and their close contacts have also been put under quarantine.

“Comprehensive contact tracing has been initiated for co-travellers, family contacts and others. Genome sequencing on other specimens is going on.

“The situation is under careful watch and regular advice is being provided to the states for enhanced surveillance, containment, testing and dispatch of samples to INSACOG labs,” the ministry had said.

The presence of the new UK Variant has already been reported by Denmark, Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Sweden, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Japan, Lebanon and Singapore.

The ministry said that from November 25 to December 23 midnight, about 33,000 passengers disembarked at various Indian airports from the UK. All these passengers are being tracked and subjected to RT-PCR tests by states and Union Territories.

The Government of India took cognizance of the reports of virus reported from the UK and put in place a proactive and preventive strategy to detect and contain the mutant variant, it said.

This strategy includes temporary suspension of all flights coming from the UK witheffectfromthemidnightofDecember23 till December31 and mandatory testing of all UK-returned air passengers through RT-PCR test. The samples of all UK returnees found positive in RT-PCR test will be genome sequenced by a consortium of 10 government labs i.e. INSACOG.

Also,a meeting of the National Task Force (NTF) on COVID-19 was held on December 26 to consider and recommend testing, treatment, surveillance and containment strategy.

Besides, standard operating protocol for states and UTs to tackle the mutant variant of SARS-CoV-2 was issued on December 22.

The entire issue was examined at length by the NTFonDecember26 and the NTF concluded that there is no need to change either the existing National Treatment Protocol or existing testing protocols in view of the mutant variant.

The NTF also recommended that in addition to the existing surveillance strategy, it is critical to conduct enhanced genomic surveillance, the ministry had said.



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Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’

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By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam

The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.

Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.

A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.

The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.

According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.

The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.

DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.

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PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners

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By Norman Palihawadane

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.

Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.

The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”

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Thilo Hoffman remembered

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A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.

Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.

The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.

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