India’s ‘double mutant’ strain detected in some Chinese cities: Top official

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China has detected the novel coronavirus strain found in India in some Chinese cities, the country’s chief epidemiologist said on Thursday.

The Indian Covid-19 strain has been detected in “…some cities in my country, and everyone is very concerned, and also worried,” Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said at a press conference on Thursday.

China wasn’t one of the 17 countries where, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Indian strain of Sars-CoV-2, also known as B.1.617 or “double mutant”, had been detected.

The WHO on Tuesday said the B.1.617 variant of Covid-19 had been detected in over 1,200 sequences “from at least 17 countries” that had been uploaded to the GISAID open-access database. “Most sequences were uploaded from India, the United Kingdom, the U.S. and Singapore,” the WHO said in its weekly epidemiological update on the pandemic.

Wu’s statement comes two days ahead of Labour Day holidays beginning Saturday when hundreds of millions of people in China are expected to travel across the country. Public transport bookings have exceeded pre-pandemic 2019-levels.

Though Wu did not share details about the cities where the strain was detected, his statement comes after state media reported that 11 Chinese nationals on a cargo ship tested positive for coronavirus after returning from a journey, which included a stop at the Indian port of Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh.

Health officials in Zhejiang, a coastal province, said 11 cases of “imported” Covid-19 infections from India were reported from among the 20 Chinese crew members of the cargo ship in the province’s Zhoushan port.

The ship, Huayang Chaoyang, had docked at Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh during its journey, had also stopped at Chittagong in Bangladesh, Singapore, and Xiamen in China.

The crew was tested this week after the ship docked at Zhoushan Xinya Shipyard in Zhejiang province for repairs.

It’s not clear where the Chinese crew members were infected with the Indian strain of the coronavirus.

In Beijing, the chief epidemiologist Wu said the surge in Covid-19 cases in some Asian countries has again underlined that the prevention and control of Covid-19 is far from over and the disease is going to be difficult, complex, recurrent, and long-term.

Wu was responding to questions on the pandemic situation in India and whether Chinese authorities were taking measures to guard against it.

He pointed out, according to state broadcaster, CGTN, that the mutation of the novel coronavirus has been occurring since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, and will not stop as long as the pandemic continues.

But the transmission of different virus variants can be stopped, Wu said.

“Implementing containment measures is crucial both to stop the spread of the mutant strains and to prevent the occurrence of new mutations.”

China’s national health commission (NHC) said on Thursday that all of the 20 new cases reported in the past 24 hours were imported infections originating from overseas.

A total of 5,644 confirmed cases have been reported in the country, the NHC said.

The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to 14 from 17 cases a day earlier.

The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in mainland China now stands at 90,642, while the death toll remains at 4,636.

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