MUMBAI: India’s health ministry will be carrying out the genome sequencing of all international travelers who arrived in the country in the past fortnight “if symptomatic and tested positive” to widen the scope of its scrutiny for the new, infectious strain of SARS-Cov-2 that’s said to have originated in the UK. The exercise may involve tracing an estimated 70,000 people, according to travel experts. This comes a week after the health ministry had announced the sequencing of all passengers arriving from the United Kingdom.
The Airport Health Organisation and the Bureau of Immigration have been asked to provide passenger details. Additionally, the ministry has also proposed that 5% of positive samples from each district/state detected daily are sent for genome sequencing, irrespective of travel history.
“All the international passengers who have arrived in India during the last 14 days (from 9th December to 22nd December 2020), if symptomatic and tested positive, will be subjected to genome sequencing,” according to a health ministry document ET has seen.
“Others will be followed up by the respective state/district surveillance officers and will be tested as per ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) guidelines (even if asymptomatic) between 5th and 10th day and found positive by RT-PCR.”
Between November 23 and December 22, India reported a total of 935,251 Covid cases. It’s not known how many of them had traveled overseas. Samples of 5% of these people picked at random will also be sent for sequencing. Ten central and Council of Scientific and Industrial Research of India (CSIR) labs will be carrying out the work.
Earlier this month, several countries including India, banned flights to and from the UK after the country reported a new variant of the SARS-Cov-2 virus called B.1.1.7, shown to be 70% more infectious than previous strains. India decided to sequence the genes of travelers from the UK in the past four weeks to determine whether it has entered the country.