The Union Health Ministry on Tuesday asked states and Union Territories to gear up whole genome sequencing of Covid-19 positive case samples to track SARS-CoV-2 variants in the country amid a spurt in infections in China, United States and Japan.
“ln view of sudden spurt of cases being witnessed in Japan, USA, Korea, Brazil and China, it is essential to gear up whole genome sequencing of positive case samples to track variants through Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) network,” the Health Ministry said in a letter to states.
Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said such an exercise would enable timely detection of newer variants, if any, circulating in the country and ensure undertaking of requisite public health measures.
“All states are requested to ensure that as far as possible samples of all positive cases, on a daily basis, are sent to the designated INSACOG Genome Sequencing Laboratories (IGSLs) that are mapped to the states and UTs,” the Union health secretary said in the letter.
India, with its focus on the five-fold strategy of test-track-treat-vaccination and adherence to Covid-appropriate behaviour, has been able to restrict the transmission of Covid, Bhushan further said.
Covid cases have continued to steadily decline in India in the past couple of months.
On Tuesday, India recorded just 112 new coronavirus infections, while the active cases declined to 3,490, according to the Union Health Ministry data.
In the week ending Sunday (December 18), the country recorded just 12 deaths, the fewest since daily Covid fatalities started being reported in March 2020. The country recorded zero deaths on three of the days.
Also, cases detected in India during the week fell to 1,103 — the lowest weekly number since March 23-29, 2020, when the first nationwide lockdown was imposed.
READ | China: Omicron Likely To Infect 60% Of Population In Next 3 Months, Estimates Epidemiologist
Earlier in the day, NK Arora, chairman of Covid working group NTAGI, said there was a need to keep a close vigil on the Covid-19 situation in China, which is witnessing a wave of infections, even though there was no need to panic in India. Arora told ANI that the Covid situation was under control in the country as India was “extensively immunized with effective vaccines”.
Another reason Arora said that might be behind the low case burden in India was the fact that not many sub-variants of Omicron was circulating in the country.
“INSACOG data shows that almost all sub-variants of Omicron are found everywhere in the world. There are not many sub-variants which aren’t circulating here. Important to keep close vigil on Chinese situation but no need to panic as situation is in control,” he further said.
Chinese cities are witnessing an explosion of Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations, with concerns growing that the government may be hiding the true death toll of the virus.
The development comes as China dismantled its tough ‘zero-Covid’ controls, dropping testing requirements and easing quarantine rules that had battered the world’s second largest economy and led to massive protests against President Xi Jinping.
Hospitals in Beijing are grappling with staff shortages and an influx of patients since the policy U-turn.
Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and health economist, estimated that more than 60 per cent of the Chinese population was likely to be infected over the next 90 days.