A total of 83 cases of Delta plus variant of COVID-19 have been reported in India till August 4 with Maharashtra registering 33 of these cases followed by Madhya Pradesh with 11 and Tamil Nadu 10, the Lok Sabha was informed on Friday. Responding to a question on whether private laboratories are permitted to do genome sequencing of coronavirus, Minister of State for Health Bharati Pravin Pawar in a written reply said inclusion of private labs in Indian INSACOG (SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortium) is under consideration.
“Few labs have submitted their willingness to be part of INSACOG. Their inclusion will be decided based on capacity assessment with respect to their human resources and infrastructure," she said in her reply.
Analysis of the genomic data is a continuous and ongoing process. Periodic updates are shared with experts and states and are also regularly made available in the public domain through the media bulletin of INSACOG. States are regularly advised to send samples for genome sequencing and provide clinical data of positive persons to enable greater epidemiological insights to identify link between surge in cases at various places to the variants, the minister stated.
Elaborating on the steps being taken to check the spread of the Delta variant, Pawar said to monitor the variants of SARS-CoV-2 virus, initially genomic sequencing was conducted through National Institute of Virology, Pune. Subsequently, the Centre established Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortium (INSACOG) in December 2020 as a consortium of 10 laboratories of Ministry of Health, Department of Biotechnology, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). The network of INSACOG laboratories has since been increased to 28, Pawar stated. While monitoring the prevalence of variants through the network of labs, according to advice from experts it is noted that the public health measures to manage the pandemic in the field and the treatment protocol remain the same and the five-fold strategy of test-track-treat-vaccinate and Covid-appropriate behavior is to be followed at the field level, she said.