The Union Health Ministry on Wednesday reviewed the status of passengers coming from the UK to India and directed states and Union Territories to send samples of those found coronavirus positive to six laboratories identified for genome sequencing.
The laboratories are: the CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology in New Delhi, the CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad, the DBT-Institute of Life Sciences in Bhubaneswar, DBT-InStem-NCBS in Bengaluru, the DBT-National Institute of Biomedical Genomics in West Bengal and the ICMR-National Institute of Virology in Pune.
The genome sequencing study would determine if the Covid-19 positive patients are carrying the existing strain of SARS-CoV-2 or the mutant strain which was discovered in the UK’s population.
The list of six identified laboratories along with the contact details of their nodal officers was shared with the states in the meeting helmed by Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan.
“The number of such designated labs would increase over time and their details would be shared with the States and UTs,” the Health Ministry said in a statement.
The Standard Operating Procedure issued by the Ministry on Tuesday for Epidemiological Surveillance and Response in the context of new variant of SARS-CoV-2 virus detected in the UK was discussed in detail in the meeting.
The states and UTs were advised to access the details of passengers from UK to India from the online portal AIR-SUVIDHA and the Bureau of Immigration.
The concerns related to logistics raised by the states were clarified in the meeting. The states were also advised to co-ordinate with the respective Airport Health Offices (APHOs) and surveillance officials in their state in order to ensure adherence to the SOPs.
The meeting was held through video conferencing in the presence of Director General ICMR, Health Secretaries from the states and UTs, Additional Secretary, Health, Director of the NCDC, and other senior health officials.
The UK government had recently announced that the newly identified strain of the virus found in their population is up to 70 per cent more transmissible and is “out of control”. This prompted Indian authorities to suspend flights to and from the UK between December 23 and 31.
Nearly two dozen who came to India from the UK in the past few days have tested Covid positive – 11 in Delhi, eight in Amritsar, one in Chennai and two in Kolkata.