Probe ordered into virus spread from drug factory in Karnataka

Mysuru, April 24 (IANS) The Karnataka government has ordered an inquiry into the mysterious coronavirus spread from a drug-making plant in Mysuru district, an official said on Friday.

“Chief Secretary T.M. Vijay Bhaskar has directed Mysuru’s Covid-19 nodal officer Harsha Gupta to investigate into the virus spread involving a drug firm and submit a report in a week,” the health official told IANS.

Though Jubilant Life Sciences Ltd claimed that no traces of the virus was found in the raw material it imported from China for making drugs at its Nanjangud plant, many of its employees and their primary contacts tested positive since a month.

“The raw material imported from China tested negative for Covid-19 virus by the state-run National Institute of Virology at Pune,” a company official told IANS in a statement on April 16.

However, of the 88 positive cases from the district till date, 73 are linked to the employees of Jubilant, which forced the authority to declare Nanjangud as a containment zone with its plant as a cluster.

“The inquiry will investigate the source of the infection in the town and reasons for becoming a pandemic affecting the plant’s employees, their family members and relatives,” said the official.

Mysuru Superintendent of Police C.B. Rishyanth, his deputy and 3 inspectors will assist the medical team in tracing the root cause of the virus spread.

“In spite of stringent measures, the reason for Mysuru district to emerge as a Covid-19 hotspot is the Jubilant factory at Nanjangud,” said Bhaskar in the order.

The role of the factory and others in the spread of the pandemic will also be investigated. The district administration also sought details of foreign nationals who visited the plant before the virus outbreak in March.

The first positive case in district was a 35-year-old employee of the drug plant. He is followed by 24 colleagues and their kin who also tested positive and are under treatment at the state-run designated Covid-19 hospital in Mysuru.

The plant was shut down on April 7 after it was suspected to have been infected by the virus from a container that came from China with the raw material.

The raw material was active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) used in drugs like Azithromycin Dihydrate and Azithromycin Monohydrate, which are needed to fight the Covid-19 disease.

The company had earlier said that the raw materials sampled from the Nanjangud plant took over three weeks of transit to reach India by sea route and no virus can survive that long on any surface.

It also said that its employee, who was first infected, had not been to China or even overseas for the past six months, and as he worked in the quality assurance section, had no contact with the raw material or had no role in receiving, transporting, handling or storing it.