New Delhi: Samples of all international passengers who arrived in India from December 9 to 22 and tested positive for COVID-19 will be subjected to genome sequencing. This is a part of the Centre’s strategy to detect the mutated coronavirus strain which has emerged in the United Kingdom recently.
Others will be followed up by the state and district surveillance officers. They will be tested as per ICMR guidelines, even if asymptomatic, between fifth and 10th day of arrival, according to the Union Health Ministry’s guidance document on genomic sequencing.
“All the international passengers who arrived in India in the last 14 days (December 9 to 22), if symptomatic and have tested positive, will be subjected to genome sequencing,” the document stated.
The presence of the new UK variant of the coronavirus has already been reported by countries like Denmark, the Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Sweden, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Japan, Lebanon and Singapore so far.
The Health Ministry has established the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) for laboratory and epidemiological surveillance. It will help in the understanding of how the virus spreads and evolves.
India has put in place a pro-active and preventive strategy to detect and contain the mutant variant of the virus. It includes temporary suspension of all flights coming from the UK with effect from the midnight of December 23 till December 31. Also mandatory testing of all UK returnee air passengers through RT-PCR test will be done.
Ten regional laboratories have been identified by the Centre where states will send five per cent of their COVID-19 positive samples for genome sequencing to detect the new coronavirus variant.
Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for Epidemiological Surveillance and Response in the context of new variant of SARS-CoV-2 has already been issued by the Health Ministry.