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Not a drill! It’s time to up the Covid shield again

Ramping up genome sequencing need of the hour, say experts; Cabinet decides to augment vaccination with special focus on erstwhile A’bad, M’nagar districts

Published: 30th November 2021 06:40 PM  |   Last Updated: 30th November 2021 06:40 PM   |  A+A-

covid testing, bengaluru

Image used for representational purpose. (File Photo | EPS)

By Express News Service

HYDERABAD: Even though the threat of a new Covid-19 variant named Omicron is looming large, Telangana, despite having two premier institutes — CCMB and CDFD — to carry out genome sequencing, has been sequencing only very few samples to check for mutations. 

According to experts, Covid-19 samples must be sequenced regularly to understand the predominant strain and take corrective action. However, data from INSICOG shows that all together only 582 samples were sent for genome sequencing in the months of July, August and September. This is extremely low when compared to the month of June alone, when nearly 529 samples were sent to Central labs for genome sequencing. 

According to the last available data, Telangana sent nearly 250 odd samples for sequencing in September.

Dr MSS Mukharjee, Senior Interventional Cardiologist, Medicover Hospitals, states that the Central government and its State-wise counterparts should consider and plan to purchase or domestically make available genetic probe RT-PCR test kits that help detect the Omicron variant at the early stage itself, instead of going a step ahead and doing the more elaborate genome sequencing. 

“Genome sequencing can be time consuming. It's done only in selected labs and requires expertise. Instead, we should import genetic probe RT-PCR kits as it helps see the three genes. If the S-gene comes negative, it is omicron and if it is positive it will be Delta. Deploying this will save time and effort and help cover more at-risk populations,” he adds. The low genome sequencing is also problematic considering new variants from India itself could emerge. 

“Let us not crystal gaze and see which variant is coming and how vaccines are responding to it. We have no crystal ball available, we must not have any fogginess in mind that double vaccination is the only way forward to tackle new variants that may mutate in future or are in circulation now,” states Dr Ranga Reddy Burri, Infection Control Academy.

Follow norms strictly at edu institutions: Sabitha

Education Minister P Sabitha Indra Reddy has directed the officials concerned to be vigilant in light of the Omicron threat. She held a review meeting with higher officials to monitor the Covid status, on Monday, after several students staying at various residential hostels tested positive for the virus recently.

Pointing out that a few educational institutions were turning a blind eye to pandemic norms, the Minister directed the officials to ensure the strict implementation of the rules. She also pointed out that this negligence can affect the students a lot.

Directing the officials to ensure that all institutions were screening students, she urged them to monitor that schools and colleges were sanitising their respective premises on a daily basis. She also told officials to check whether all teaching and non-teaching staffers were fully vaccinated.



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