India will boost Covid-19 genome sequencing efforts, hoping early detection of the Omicron variant will help avoid a repeat of the Delta-fuelled wave of infections that brought India's health system close to collapse earlier this year.
Public health officials aim to analyse positive tests from airports within 48 hours and more than a dozen state-funded laboratories may be added to the current 38 that are part of the Indian SARs-COV-2 Genomics Consortium, or INSACOG, according to Priya Abraham, director of the India's National Institute of Virology, report Bloomberg.
"We learnt a lot from the second wave," Priya, whose state-funded institution has been instrumental in detecting and mapping Covid-19 in India, said in an interview. "The country as a whole and the government of India realizes this capacity has to be exponentially expanded."
However, concerns remain about gaps in India's overall Covid-19 surveillance, especially given its past track record of lax imposition of testing and isolation protocols ahead of the emergence of the newest variant.
After opening up its borders to foreign tourists in recent weeks following dwindling infection rates, India on Wednesday will reimpose airport testing and home quarantine for fully vaccinated arrivals from countries that have registered Omicron cases. The variant, which was first identified in southern Africa last week, is feared to be more transmissible and able to evade vaccine barriers than the predominant delta strain that emerged in India.
Despite the moves to ramp up both testing and sequencing, some government officials and experts speculate that Omicron may already be circulating in the nation that's home to about 1.4 billion people, but which along with other large countries like China and the US has yet to detect a single case.