States and Union territories have been asked to submit “larger number” of samples for whole genome sequencing from districts and areas which have seen a surge in Covid-19 cases over a period of seven days, official sources said on Saturday.
The direction was issued during Friday’s meeting by the INSACOG, which reviewed the Covid-19 data to check the possibility of any new emerging variant or sub-variant and ascertain the reasons behind the breakthrough infections.
“The idea behind asking states and Union territories to send larger number of samples is to keep a closer watch over the current circulating sub lineages of Omicron and its correlation to the current epidemiological picture,” an official said.
“Also, we want to see if we are missing out any important clues regarding newer sub-variants during routine sequencing through the sentinel surveillance,” the official added.
As on date, 10 states and Union territories — Maharashtra, Kerala, Delhi, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, West Bengal and Gujarat — have over 1,000 cases.
“The last review meeting (discussed) that there is no variant of concern in the country as of now. India now has BA.4 and BA.5 in addition to BA.2 which have slightly higher transmissibility as compared to other Omicron sub lineages,” the official said.
The INSACOG is a joint initiative of the Department of Biotechnology under the ministries of science and technology, and health to carry out genome sequencing of the virus to understand how it spreads and evolves.
Thirty-two districts in India, including 11 from Kerala and five from Maharashtra, are reporting a weekly Covid positivity rate of more than 10 per cent while in 35 districts including 9 from Delhi, the weekly positivity is between 5 and 10 per cent, sources said.
India logged a single day rise of 13,216 new coronavirus infections, taking the total tally of Covid-19 cases to 4,32,83,793, while the active cases have increased to 68,108, according to health ministry data updated on Saturday morning.
The death toll has climbed to 5,24,840 with 23 new fatalities.
According to health experts, although there is a rise in cases, there is no associated increase in hospitalisation or deaths. Also, the increase is limited to a few districts.
The complacency among people towards following Covid-appropriate behaviour, in addition to people not being enthusiastic about taking precaution doses, has possibly increased the pool of susceptible population.
In addition, there is an increased mobility due to summer holidays, easing of travel restrictions — both nationally and internationally — and full-fledged opening up of economic activities, because of which there is spread of infection among vulnerable individuals.