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US lab starts research into new Covid-19 variant

File photo: A scientist prepares a sample at the Szentgothai Research Center of Pecs University, in Pecs, Hungary, during their diagnostic activity to locate the nature of the virus strain and the connection to novel coronavirus COVID-19. Picture: AFP

File photo: A scientist prepares a sample at the Szentgothai Research Center of Pecs University, in Pecs, Hungary, during their diagnostic activity to locate the nature of the virus strain and the connection to novel coronavirus COVID-19. Picture: AFP

Published Dec 23, 2020

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New York - The Wadsworth Laboratory in Albany has begun aggressive research of the new, highly contagious Covid-19 strain that has been discovered in the UK, said an official release issued by the New York State government on Tuesday.

Already, the laboratory, officially called the Wadsworth Center, which is the research-intensive public health laboratory of the New York State Department of Health (DoH), has looked at more than 3,700 virus sequences identified in New York, but has yet to find the variant present in any of the samples, it said.

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Wadsworth and DoH have forged agreements with six hospitals from across the state to obtain additional samples and is continuing to make arrangements with other hospitals to do the same, the Xinhua news agency reported.

Those six hospitals are Montefiore, Memorial Sloan Kettering, Northwell Long Island, University of Rochester, Albany Medical Center and Saratoga Hospital, according to the release.

"If the variant is here, I want to know, because that would be problematic. The state is now contacting hospitals all across our state to test for the variant specifically," Governor Andrew Cuomo was quoted as saying.

Despite a number of mutations so far of SARS-CoV-2 virus, the culprit behind the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, none of them, including the latest variant found in the UK, has made a significant impact on the susceptibility of the virus to any of the currently used therapeutics, drugs or the vaccines under development, according to experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday.

Meanwhile, the Governor announced that to the date, 50 000 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been administered throughout New York. The state has received 6,30,000 doses thus far and expects to receive another 3,00,000 doses next week.

With Christmas and other festivals rapidly approaching, the Governor called on hospitals, nursing homes and medical personnel to continue providing vaccinations throughout the holidays to ensure nursing home patients and front line health care workers are protected as quickly as possible.

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Covid-19

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