The central government has asked all states and Union Territories (UTs) to step up vigil against Covid-19 cases and ensure that samples of all positive cases, on a daily basis, are sent to the designated Genome Sequencing Laboratories (lGSLs) that are part of the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACoG) network spread across the country.
The move comes against the backdrop of a spurt in Covid cases in Japan, the United States of America, the Republic of Korea, Brazil and China. In a letter to the States and UTs, Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan said it is essential to gear up the whole genome sequencing of positive case samples to track the variants through the INSACoG network.
The “Operational Guidelines for Revised Surveillance Strategy in the context of COVID-19” issued by the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare in June 2022 calls for early detection, isolation, testing, and timely management of suspected and confirmed cases to detect and contain outbreaks of new SARS-CoV-2 variants. Hence, monitoring the trends of existing variants is of crucial importance, the health secretary said.
While around 35 lakh Covid-19 positive cases are reported around the world daily, India only has around 1,200 cases on a weekly basis. The health secretary said India has been able to restrict the transmission of the Covid-19 virus through its five-fold strategy of test-track-treat-vaccination and adherence to Covid-appropriate behaviour.
INSACoG, jointly initiated by the Union Health Ministry of Health, and Department of Biotechnology (DBT) with the Council for Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), is a consortium of 54 laboratories to monitor the genomic variations in the SARS-CoV-2. As on September 9, the INSACoG network sequenced 2,86,860 samples to understand the trends in genomic variations in SARS-CoV-2 in India. The sentinel sequencing effort is facilitated by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Delhi involving the Central Surveillance Unit (CSU) under Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP).
The INSACOG bulletin for the second week of September stated that Omicron and its sub-lineages continue to be the dominant variant in India. However, no surge in hospitalisation or any disease severity was observed during this time period.