New virus strain sending shivers down the spine of people

Citizens can breathe easy if they diligently follow health protocols, say experts

Even as people started breathing a sigh of relief with the city and the State limping back to near normalcy following a significant drop in cases of the COVID-19, a new strain that surfaced in the UK and South Africa is sending shivers down the spine of everyone.

Medical experts, however, say citizens can breathe easy if they diligently follow the health protocols like wearing a face mask in public places, maintaining adequate physical distance and observing personal hygiene like frequent washing of hands with soap or using sanitiser.

Thankfully, scheduled international flights are not being operated from the airports in Visakhapatnam and Vijayawada ever since the lockdown. Visakhapatnam International Airport had operated Vande Bharat Mission (VBM) flights to bring back Indians stranded abroad in the past but at present VBM flights are being operated only to and from Vijayawada.

“New strain has been detected but there are no conclusive studies, so far, on the variant and its virulence. On the positive side, irrespective of the virus strain, the prevention strategy has not changed,” says P.V. Sudhakar, COVID Special Officer and Principal of Andhra Medical College (AMC).

He attributed the present drop in COVID-19 cases in Andhra Pradesh to the strict observance of health protocols during June and July. “The efficacy of the COVID vaccine on this mutant is not yet determined and until it is done, there is no alternative but to take preventive measures,” he says.

“Though the incidence has declined, there may be asymptomatic carriers, who can infect others. This aspect underlines the importance of wearing masks and maintaining safe distance from others. Any negligence can once again lead to a spurt in cases,” Dr. Sudhakar cautions.

“Viruses mutate frequently and the severe cold during winter may aid in the spread of the disease. The content of the vaccine may have to be changed, if it does not work,” says physician Kutikuppala Surya Rao.

“We are getting VBM flights regularly from the Gulf and South East Asian countries. We have handled 300 VBM flights since May 20, this year. When passengers produce a COVID-19 negative certificate, taken not more than 72 hours prior to their arrival, they are allowed to go without further testing. Rapid Antigen Tests are being conducted for other passengers,” Vijayawada International Airport Director Giri Madhusudhana Rao told The Hindu on phone.

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