- A genomic surveillance consortium has been formed: Government
- Above 50 samples of people back from UK are being sequenced at six labs
- Surveillance officers are identifying passengers who have arrived from UK
The government has formed a genome surveillance consortium called INSACOG, under the leadership of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), for laboratory and epidemiological surveillance of circulating strains of the novel coronavirus in the country.
The body was formed in view of a new, more fast-spreading strain of the COVID-19 virus being found in the UK. Since then, another mutation has been reported from South Africa. It is part of government's strategy to study mutations in the virus and prevent a super-spreader event.
"The overall aim of the consortium is to regularly monitor the genomic variations in the SARS-CoV-2 through a multi-laboratory network. This vital research consortium will also assist in developing potential vaccines in the future," a government statement read.
Ten labs across the country will be studying the genomic sequence of Sars-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19.
Besides detecting and studying the UK-variant, 5 per cent of India's positive test samples will be selected for regular study of how the virus mutates.
The 5 per cent samples are supposed to be collected randomly with "proper representation particularly from the metro cities where there is high probability of importation (presence) of new SARS-CoV-2 variant".
It is proposed that the samples will be sent to the regional labs for genome sequencing, a government statement read.
"It is important to understand that like all other RNA viruses, Sars-CoV-2 will continue to mutate. The mutated virus can also be contained by measures like social distancing, hand hygiene, wearing masks and also by an effective vaccine, as and when available," read a statement issued after the task force meeting on Saturday.
More than 50 samples of people who have returned from the UK are currently being sequenced at six labs across the country, officials said, adding that many more who returned from the UK are being traced so they can be tested for COVID-19. If positive, their samples would be tested further to see if the novel coronavirus strain is the new one or the old one.
India recorded 20,022 new COVID-19 infections on Monday taking the overall case count since the outbreak in January to 1.02 crore. Less than 3 lakh of those are currently infected with the coronavirus.
Daily cases have been dipping steadily in the country since hitting a peak in September, although the country still has the second-highest infections in the world, after the United States.
A total of 1,47,901 people have died of COVID-19 in the country, with 279 of those deaths coming in the last 24 hours, the ministry said.