Sewage Examination to Identify B.1.617.2 Hotspots: In an extraordinary new move, British authorities have used tests on sewage to identify areas where the B.1.617.2 Covid strain has been spreading more rapidly. Based on those tests, Leicester city, about 100 miles north of London, and Hounslow suburb in London next to Heathrow have been identified among the areas where heavy new surge testing and jabs have been ordered. Both Leicester and Hounslow have a substantial Indian population. The areas were identified also on the basis of travel patterns, and recent travel from India to these areas is now being investigated. But the sewage examination points to evidence of Covid prevalence in human waste output.
Strain Emerging from India Not Too Deadly: Britain has now reported almost 3,000 cases of the B.1.617.2 variant that was first found in India. The numbers are growing steadily, but not wildly. Also, not lethally. On Wednesday, Britain recorded 2,967 cases of this strain but reported only three new deaths. That differential arises presumably because by now more than 20 million people have been given a double dose of the vaccine. “We have increasing confidence vaccines are effective against all variants, including the Indian variant,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Parliament.
Indo-Nordic Summit Called off: After the cancellation of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visit to Delhi, and the cancellation of Prime Minister Modi’s visits for the EU-India summit in Portugal and for the G7 meeting due in Cornwall in Britain next month, the second Indo-Nordic summit has now been cancelled. The summit was due in Denmark and PM Modi was to meet the heads of government of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland. The first India-Nordic meeting took place in Stockholm in 2018.
Trouble Brewing over Serum Institute’s Unfulfilled Commitments: India is headed for a spate of diplomatic conflicts following the decision that the Serum Institute of India (SII) will not export vaccines likely until the end of the year in order to halt the spread of the virus within India. The SII, the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world, has contracted deliveries to several countries but the Indian government has ordered a freeze on the export of vaccines. The SII has therefore been unable to fulfil its contractual commitments. Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonawalla has said that they hope to resume supplies by the end of the year. For many countries that signed up for vaccines made in India, that is too far down the line. India’s much-flaunted vaccine diplomacy is headed for something of a boomerang.
Quarantine Ahead for Indian Men’s and Women’s Cricket Teams: It will be quarantine all the way for India’s men and women cricketers flying into England next month. The players are all being locked in what is being called a “bio-bubble". Small groups will be flown to Mumbai in charter flights where the teams will be together in a larger bio-bubble. Following quarantine, with net practice too in quarantine, the teams will be flown to England together in a charter flight on June 2. The women’s team is due to play a one-off Test in Bristol from June 16-19 followed by three ODI and three T20 matches. The men’s team plays a World Test Championship final in Southampton against New Zealand from June 18, and then five Test matches against England in August and September.