Tamil Nadu to use new diagnostic test to detect Omicron variant, to intensify checks at airports

Samples of all international travellers who test positive for Covid-19 hereafter would be subjected to genomic sequencing at the State public health laboratory.

Published: 30th November 2021 05:40 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th November 2021 10:45 AM   |  A+A-

Health Minister Ma Subramanian and Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan inspecting the genomic sequencing lab on DMS campus in Chennai. (Photo | R Satish Babu/EPS)

By Express News Service

CHENNAI: With concerns about the highly contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus rising, the State government has decided to strengthen surveillance at airports. 

Health Minister Ma Subramanian on Monday said so far Omicron has not been detected in the State.

He added that the government last month inaugurated a state-of-the-art genetic testing centre to facilitate quick detection of variants.

Till now, 6,714 samples have been sent to the centre. Results for 4,618 have been obtained. So far, 96 per cent of the samples tested for Delta variant, he said.

“The four international airports in the State have been directed to strictly screen passengers returning from Omicorn-affected countries. The health secretary and I will visit the airports to inspect their preparedness,” he said. 

In a related development, the Director of Public Health (DPH), in a circular, said Tamil Nadu has decided to use Thermo Fischer TaqPath Assay as a proxy test for the Omicron variant, pending sequencing confirmation, at 12 RT-PCR labs of the government.

The DPH said samples of all international travellers who test positive for Covid-19 hereafter would be subjected to genomic sequencing at the State public health laboratory, which was established after the second wave.

Subramanian, who visited the State public health laboratory, said the genomic sequencing of the 469 samples tested so far at the laboratory have shown that over 95 per cent of the samples were infected with Delta variant.

The circular came a day after the Health Department appointed nodal officers for all four airports for prevention of entry of Omicron variant.

The department had also asked district administrations to enhance monitoring of passengers from risk countries, and intensify vaccination drive.

Meanwhile, the health minister refuted allegations that Amma mini clinics were closed intentionally.

He said the clinics were opened without any infrastructure. Neither doctors nor nurses were appointed to make these clinics functional, he said.


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