KATHMANDU, Jan 6: The government is sending samples of three United Kingdom-returnees to the laboratory of the University of Hong Kong for genome sequencing to test the new variant of the coronavirus.
In a testing conducted at the state-owned National Public Health Laboratory (NPHL), three UK-returnees are suspected to be infected with the new variant of COVID-19 (B-117).
“The samples of three returnees are being sent to a laboratory in Hong Kong for genome sequencing to test the new variant of coronavirus. The samples will reach the laboratory in Hong Kong on Monday,” Dr Runa Jha, director at the NPHL told Republica.
The laboratory of the University of the Hong Kong is also the collaborating center of the World Health Organization.
At least 277 passengers – Nepali nationals and a few tourists – have arrived in Nepal from the UK before the government imposed travel restrictions from and to the UK owing to the severe risk of the new variant of the virus.
Of the returnees, eight have tested COVID-19 positive, according to the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division (EDCD). “Though eight returnees have tested positive for coronavirus, samples of three passengers, who are suspected to have the new variant, will only be sent to the foreign laboratory for testing,” according to EDCD.
The new strain of the virus is believed to be 70 percent more infectious. As the new variant is highly infectious, more than 40 countries have already imposed travel and flight restrictions from and to the UK.
The new variant of the virus has already been detected in almost 40 countries including in South Asian countries India and Pakistan.
“The first case of COVID-19 in Nepal was also tested positive in the same laboratory in Hong Kong,” said Jha.