Chandigarh, Dec 30 (PTI) The Punjab government will send five per cent of the total positive samples per week to premier central units of epidemiology to check the prevalence of the mutated strain of coronavirus, an official said here on Wednesday.

Medical Education and Research Principal Secretary D K Tiwari said the move was part of a state government master plan to contain the spread of the new strain of the deadly virus in Punjab.

After the emergence of the new UK-linked coronavirus variant, which has high transmissibility, the Centre issued an advisory that it could also be circulating in India too, he said in a statement here. "In order to check the mutation of new mutated strain (N501Y) SARS-CoV-2 virus in Punjab, the state government has decided to send five per cent positive samples per week to the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), Delhi and NCDC, Delhi- Division of Biotechnology, Epidemiology and Central Surveillance Unit," Tiwari stated.

He said Punjab has already sent to NIV Pune random positive samples -- 80 from Viral Research and Diagnostic Laboratory (VRDL) GMC Patiala, 40 each from VRDL GMC Amritsar and VRDL GGMC Faridkot -- to check the emergence of the mutated strain.

The officer said that the samples were selected from September to December.

He also said all the passengers who came from the United Kingdom were screened for COVID-19, and eight of them came positive for COVID-19 at VRDL GMC Amritsar and one at VRDL GMC Patiala.

Tiwari said the samples of these nine patients have been sent to NIV Pune for genome sequencing to check if they had contracted the new strain of the virus.

He said the state government has conducted 25.74 lakh tests since March and 78,666 people have been diagnosed positive so far.