The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) is closely tracking the new variant of COVID-19 called B.1.1.529 and its presence has not been detected in the country yet, officials said on Friday, November 26. The new variant, feared to have a high amount of spike mutations, has been detected in South Africa, with the authorities there confirming 22 positive cases associated with it on Thursday, November 25.
Commenting on the development, a senior scientist with INSACOG said the consortium is closely tracking the new variant of COVID-19 called B.1.1.529 and its presence has not been detected yet in the country. Health Ministry sources said INSACOG is "very closely monitoring" the situation to check for the presence of this variant and expedite the results of genomic analysis of positive samples of international travellers. A review meeting on the matter was also learnt to have been held.
There has been no isolation of the variant so far, a source said. Samples of all international passengers are being collected as usual and positive samples will be specifically looked for B1.1.529 on priority. The Ministry of Health and the Department of Biotechnology have already reviewed the situation, the source said.
The Union government on Thursday asked all states and union territories to conduct rigorous screening and testing of all international travellers coming from or transiting through South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana where the new COVID-19 variant of serious public health implications has been reported.
In a letter addressed to additional chief secretary/principal secretary/secretary (Health) of all states and union territories, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan asked them to ensure that samples of travellers turning positive are sent to designated genome sequencing laboratories promptly.
It has now been reported by National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) that multiple cases of a COVID-19 variant B.1.1529 have been reported in Botswana (three cases), South Africa (six cases) and Honk Kong (one case), Bhushan said in the letter.