The national task force on COVID-19 held a meeting on Saturday over the new mutant strain of the coronavirus that was first traced in the UK and discussed surveillance strategies to detect and contain the highly contagious infection.
More than 50 samples of people who have returned from the UK are currently being sequenced at six labs across the country to find out if they have the mutant strain and district surveillance officers are identifying passengers who have arrived from the country in the last one month, officials said.
The task force also agreed for the need of routine genomic surveillance to track different strains of the coronavirus and decided to ensure that apart from the UK returnees, samples of 5 per cent of positive cases from all states and union territories will be sent for genome sequencing.
A genomic surveillance consortium called INSACOG has been formed under the leadership of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) for laboratory and epidemiological surveillance of circulating strains of SARS-CoV-2 in the country, the government said.
The statement said, “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.”
The meeting was led by NITI Aayog member Dr VK Paul and and Dr Balram Bhargava, Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and had members from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) as well as top health Ministry officials.
India recorded 22,273 new COVID-19 infections in the last 24 hours, taking its total cases to 1.01 crore, the health ministry said on Saturday. Less than 3 lakh of those are currently infected with the coronavirus, it said.
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 1,47,343 people have died of COVID-19 in the country, with 251 of those deaths coming in the last 24 hours – the first time the number fell below 300 in six months, the ministry said.