Genome Sequencing of COVID-19 positive international patients in India

All international passenger who arrived in India between December 9 and 22, 2020 and have tested positive must undergo genome sequencing, the health ministry announced on Tuesday.

Government shall undertake genome sequencing of international passengers who arrived in India between December 9 and 22, 2020 and have tested positive. This decision comes as a part of the centre’s strategy to detect the new variant of COVID-19 which recently originated in the United Kingdom.

Other international passengers must follow-up with the state and district surveillance officers. They shall undergo testing according to the ICMR regulations even if asymptomatic. The follow-up must take place between the fifth and tenth day of arrival. The Union health ministry’s guidance document related to genome sequencing specify the above-mentioned guidelines.

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The document clearly stated that all international passengers who arrived in India in the last 14 days must undergo genome sequencing. The sequencing process however, is only applicable to passengers who tested positive and show COVID-19 symptoms.

Various countries have reported the presence of the new UK strain. These countries include Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Canada and many more.

The health ministry also recently established the Indians SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) for laboratory and surveillance purposes. It also aims to broaden the genome sequencing of COVID-19 to understand how the virus mutates and spreads.

India has undertaken multiple pro-active and preventive strategies to contain the spread of the new variant. It recently temporarily banned all flights arriving from the UK with immediate effect from December 23 to 31, 2020. It also necessitated all UK returnees to undergo RT-PCR tests.

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Central government also identified ten regional laboratories where states shall send five percent of their COVID-19 positive samples. This move aims for genome sequencing the samples to detect the new virus variant.

At least six UK returnees have tested COVID-19 positive for the new strain, as reported by the Union Health ministry. The new variant, SARS-CoV-2, was present in three samples in the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences Hospital. Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) detected two samples. National Institute of Virology (NIV) Pune detected one sample. All these patients currently live in single-room isolation at specific health care facilities.