The panic across the world over the new UK strain of Coronavirus is showing with lockdowns re-emerging and protocols getting tighter. However, in Goa, the chinks in the system are still on display. Around 20 UK returnees holed up at the ESI Hospital in Margao were finally discharged on Thursday after a prolonged period of quarantine which was marked by impatience, anxiety and uncertainty. There were times where patients threatened to force themselves out of the hospital due to the delay in genome sequencing reports from National Institute of Virology (NIV). The agony and frustration were written all over since they descended from the UK to reunite with their families during Christmas and New Year festivities.
Understandably, authorities could be in a helpless situation because of the protocols in operation and given the sudden spurt in tests conducted at NIV. But on the flip side, people cannot be waiting way too long because it only adds to their agony and frustration. Goa faced a similar situation during the start of the pandemic where reports were sourced from outstation labs were delayed leading to bigger chaos and anxiety, and which is why we should have learnt lessons.
Reports indicate that it takes around four days for results of the genome sequencing. Working out alternatives at this juncture is crucial because the inflow of international traffic will jump drastically once flights resume. Besides the Virology Institute at Pune, others handling such testing include CSIR Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), New Delhi, the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bengaluru; National Centre for Disease Control, New Delhi; Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad; and National Institute of Biomedical Genomics (NIBG), Kalyani.
The number of people detected with the more feared strain of virus stands at 38, and could gradually go up in the coming days. According to the protocol, those detected with the strain have been kept in single room isolation in designated Health Care facilities by respective State Governments. Their close contacts are also put under quarantine, and comprehensive contact tracing has to be undertaken for co-travellers, family contacts and others. Surprisingly, in Goa, while the genome sequencing results are awaited from Pune, suspects are housed in a single ward at the ESI facility. This means, that there are high chances of other inmates contracting the virus, should one of them report positive for the new strain.
The Health Ministry has been advising States for enhanced surveillance, containment, testing and dispatch of samples to INSACOG (Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortium) labs. In this context, the State health ministry must put in place fool-proof systems isolating even suspects in the best possible ways. The mutated strain remains a major worry because it is reported to be highly infectious and transmissible, and Goa is going to witness a steady flow of passengers from the UK.