Chandigarh: Of the 401 samples sent by the Punjab government for genome sequencing, 81% have tested positive for the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant that originated in the UK, Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh said on Tuesday.
Expressing concern over the COVID-19 situation, the chief minister also appealed to people to get themselves vaccinated.
While he stressed on the need for the Central government to urgently open up vaccination for a larger section of the population, Union minister Prakash Javadekar soon after announced that from April 1, those above 45 will be eligible to get the vaccine.
“The process needs to be expedited,” he said, pointing to the fact that experts had found the Covishield vaccine to be equally effective against the B.1.1.7 variant. It was essential to vaccinate more and more people to break the chain of transmission, he said.
The state government, which has already announced fresh restrictions, would be forced to impose more curbs if people don’t follow COVID-appropriate behaviour, Amarinder Singh warned.
The appeal from the chief minister came after the head of the state’s COVID-19 expert committee K.K. Talwar apprised him of developments on the new variant in the state, which has been witnessing a surge in the number of cases in the last few weeks.
The state health department had sent 478 COVID-19 positive samples to the National Institute of Biologicals, the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, Delhi, and the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) for genome sequencing, of which results of 90 samples were received and those showed only two samples for N440K [a coronavirus variant].
Subsequently, a team from the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India, visited the state to review the increase in positivity, the statement said. The team was also informed about the pending results of genome sequencing, it added.
Thereafter, 401 more samples, collected between January 1, 2021 to March 10, 2021 were sent to NCDC for genome sequencing. The result of these samples was worrying as it showed presence of B.1.1.7 variant in 326 COVID-19 samples, the statement said, quoting Talwar.
On Monday, Punjab reported 2,319 fresh COVID-19 cases, taking the tally to 2,15,409, and 58 fatalities, pushing the death toll to 6,382.