Equipped to handle higher number of samples for genome sequencing, say labs amid Omicron scare

Amid the Omicron scare, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal on Monday said all samples that test Covid positive will be sent for genome sequencing.

Authorities at two genome sequencing laboratories in Delhi on Monday said they have the capacity to handle a higher number of samples for detection of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.

Amid the Omicron scare and the growing number of coronavirus cases in Delhi, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday said all samples that test Covid positive will be sent for genome sequencing.

“In the last couple of days, daily cases have increased to over 80 and then it again crossed the 100 mark on Sunday.

“We would like to know if these are cases of old variants or the new Omicron variant. Hence, all samples which test positive will be sent for genome sequencing,” he said in an online briefing.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority, during which the Omicron situation, including its possible effects and steps to deal with it, was discussed.

Delhi has reported 24 cases of the Omicron variant so far and 12 of them have been discharged so far. The city’s first Omicron case — a 37-year-old man from Ranchi — was detected on December 5. He has been discharged.

The national capital on Monday reported 91 new COVID-19 cases and zero deaths, while the positivity rate increased to 0.20 per cent. The city recorded 85 Covid cases on Thursday with a positivity rate of 0.15 per cent.

On Sunday, the daily rise in cases was 107, the highest single-day rise since June 27, with a positivity rate of 0.17 per cent while one death was also recorded, according to official data.

There are two genome sequencing laboratories, one each at the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS) and Loknayak Jaiprakash (LNJP) Hospital, which are being run under the Delhi government.

“We can handle 1,000 samples per week. Though the daily cases have increased in the last couple of days, only about the capacity of 500 samples per week is being used. So, at present, we have sufficient capacity. As the need arises, we will double it,” a source told PTI.

Sources at LNJP Hospital said the genome sequencing laboratory there was capable of handling a greater number of Covid samples now.

In June, Kejriwal had announced that two genome sequencing laboratories to identify variants of coronavirus will come up at the LNJP Hospital and the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences.

Setting up of these laboratories were part of the Delhi government’s preparations to tackle a possible third wave of coronavirus.

The facility at ILBS is equipped with the latest machines called NextSeq and MiSeq which can sequence the whole virus to the tune of 400 sequences per week, officials had said earlier this month.

The Delhi government had recently also approved a new machine for ILBS, the NovaSeq, which will allow the processing of viral sequences up to 3,000 every week.

Amid a jump in cases of the Omicron variant of coronavirus reported in Delhi, doctors have warned that people should avoid all kinds of gatherings as this is a highly transmissible variant, and follow Covid-appropriate behaviours, else the situation may worsen.

According to experts, Omicron is far more transmissible than the Delta variant. Cases of the latest variant of coronavirus are likely to mount in the coming days, they said given the pattern of rise in cases in a few of the major cities in South Africa.

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