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Centre asks states to send all samples from Covid hotspots

by Pragati Singh

TIGHTENING To guarantee early identification of novel varieties, including Omicron, the Union Health Ministry has urged states to transmit “100% samples” from Covid hotspots, beginning with two recent clusters in Karnataka’s Dharwad and Maharashtra’s Thane, The Indian Express has learned.

During a high-level review conference on Tuesday headed by Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, states were directed to deliver “all positive samples” for genome sequencing to authorised INSACOG labs “as soon as possible.” Previously, only around 5% of positive cases revealed by RT-PCR assays were forwarded for genome sequencing.

To begin with, top Government sources told The Indian Express, the Centre has told authorities to send all samples from the cluster of cases reported from a medical college in Dharwad and an old-age home at Bhiwandi in Thane.

“We have told the states that whenever you have emerging hotspots and clusters of new cases, you should get 100 per cent of the genome sequenced. It is being done in Dharwad, where they had more than 240 cases in one institution, and in Bhiwandi, where 60 cases were detected in an old age home. We have told the states that wherever you have such a number, there should be mandatory genome sequencing,” sources said.

On Tuesday, the Centre told states to ensure “physical visits” to the homes of passengers from “at-risk” countries to monitor home isolation. “The status of those who are negative after the retest on the eighth day” will also be “physically monitored by the state administration”, it said. The states have been told that international passengers from “at-risk” countries should be advised to wait at airports till the report comes and “not book connecting flights”.

During the meeting, ICMR D-G Dr Balram Bhargava said Omicron does not escape RT-PCR and Rapid Antigen tests. The Centre conveyed that the flagship “Har Ghar Dastak” campaign has been extended till December 31.

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