Increase genome sequencing to track COVID-19 variants: Centre tells states
Amid a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Brazil, China, Japan, South Korea, and the US, the Union Health Ministry has asked all states and union territories to increase genome sequencing of positive cases to track variants through the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) network. In the letter, Health Ministry Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said it will help in the timely detection of any new variant.
Why does this story matter?
- Prompted by widespread protests against a strict lockdown of over three months, China eased restrictions under its 'zero-COVID' policy, following which it is facing a fresh spike in COVID-19 cases.
- Cities reportedly relaxed testing requirements, control of movement, and quarantine rules.
- Reports say healthcare and crematorium facilities are becoming overwhelmed across the country.
- However, the Chinese government hasn't corroborated such reports.
Send as many samples as possible daily: Health Ministry
The letter asked all states to send as many samples as possible to the designated INSACOG Genome Sequencing Laboratories (IGSLs) on a daily basis. It said that the policy was in line with the Health Ministry's Operational Guidelines for Revised Surveillance Strategy issued in June this year, which called for the timely management to detect and contain outbreaks of new COVID-19 variants.
35 lakh cases reported globally per week, 1,200 in India
The letter said that the public health challenge of COVID-19 still persists globally, with around 35 lakh cases reported weekly. Meanwhile, India has been able to restrict the transmission with its focus on a five-fold strategy of test-track-treat-vaccinate and adherence to COVID-appropriate behavior. As a result, India currently sees around 1,200 new cases on a weekly basis, it read.
INSACOG network of 50 labs to track genomic variations
The INSACOG network is a consortium of over 50 laboratories to keep a check on genomic variations in the COVID-19 virus. India reported 112 new cases on Tuesday, while active cases fell to 3,490, as per the Health Ministry's data.
Concerned about the outbreak in China: US
As hospitalizations are on the rise in the US, it said it was concerned about the outbreak in China given the size of the latter's economy and the potential for further mutations. Beijing reported five deaths on Tuesday, as compared to two the previous day. Health officials said only deaths related to direct respiratory failure will be counted under COVID-19 death statistics.