By Aakanksha Khajuria, (IANS) The National Centre of Disease Control (NCDC) said on Wednesday that the results of the genome sequencing of samples of those who tested positive after coming to India from the United Kingdom, to ascertain if they were carrying the mutant coronavirus strain, would take at least 2-3 more days to come.
The British government had recently announced that the newly identified strain of the virus found in its population is up to 70 per cent more transmissible and the situation is “out of control”. This prompted Indian authorities to suspend flights to and from the UK between December 23 and December 31.
Many people who came to India from the UK in the past few days have tested positive, including 11 in Delhi, eight in Amritsar, one in Chennai and two in Kolkata. Their samples have been sent to the NCDC and Pune’s National Institute of Virology (NIV) for genome sequencing.
The genome sequencing study would determine if the Covid-19 positive patients were carrying the existing strain of SARS-CoV-2 or the mutant strain which was discovered in the UK.
Speaking to IANS, NCDC Director Sujeet Kumar Singh said, “The results of genome sequencing have not come yet. It takes at least 2-3 days because this is a very cost-intensive procedure. So when we have sufficient number of samples, we will put the batch in the machine.”
A senior official at the NIV in Pune confirmed that the institute has received the samples of the UK fliers. “The full results of genome sequencing will take under a month to come as these are whole-genome sequencing,” the official said on the condition of anonymity.
The Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry has asked the state governments to send the samples of the passengers who test positive on arrival from the UK to the NIV in Pune or any other appropriate lab for genomic sequencing study.
If the samples indicate the presence of the new variant, the patient will continue to remain in a separate isolation unit while necessary treatment as per the existing protocol will be given, according to the ministry’s latest standard operating procedure.
The ministry said that if the report of genome sequencing is consistent with the current SARS-CoV-2 virus genome circulating in the country, the ongoing treatment protocol including home isolation or treatment at some facility will be followed as per case severity.
(Aakanksha Khajuria can be contacted at [email protected])