The Union health ministry on Tuesday urged states to send all Covid-19 positive samples for genome sequencing in view of the rise in cases in several countries, ANI reported.

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan made the statement in a letter to all states and Union Territories. The letter took note of the “sudden spurt of cases” in Japan, the United States of America, the Republic of Korea (South Korea), Brazil and China.

“...All states are requested to ensure that as far as possible, samples of all positive cases on a daily basis are sent to the designated INSACOG [Indian SARS-COV-2 Genomics Consortium] Genome Sequencing Laboratories [IGSLs] that are mapped to the states and UTs,” the health secretary said.

The ministry said that it is necessary to “gear up whole genome sequencing of positive case samples to track variants” through INSACOG’s network. “Such an exercise will enable timely detection of newer variants, if any, circulating in the country and will facilitate undertaking of requisite public health measures for the same,” it said.

Meanwhile, the chairperson of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI), NK Arora, said that it is necessary to maintain a close vigil on the situation in China, but that there is no need to panic, according to ANI.

“There is no need for getting too much worried,” Arora said. “As far as genomic surveillance is concerned, this is the most important part we are doing genomic surveillance of individuals with symptoms.”

The NTAGI chief said that vaccination and hybrid immunity will help protect Indian citizens from the coronavirus. “...The INSACOG data shows that almost every sub-variant of Omicron which is found anywhere else in the world is also found in India,” he noted. “So, there are not many sub-variants which are not circulating here.”

Covid-19 in China

In the past few weeks, coronavirus cases have increased sharply in China after it abandoned key parts of its “Zero Covid” containment strategy in response to protests.

In some parts of the country, hospitals have become overcrowded and pharmacies have been facing shortages of medicines, according to Reuters.

On December 14, a video shared by the South China Morning Post showed patients being hooked up to intravenous drips in their cars as beds were not available in clinics and hospitals.

The capital city of Beijing registered five Covid-19 deaths on Tuesday and two on Monday, according to Reuters. These were the first fatalities due to the virus in several weeks.

China has registered a total of 5,242 deaths due to the coronavirus since the pandemic began in late 2019.