Govt. may not send all samples for genome sequencing: officials

Omicron variant detected in 53.6% of 125 local samples

Delhi government officials are mulling not to send all COVID-19 samples for genome sequencing as 53.6% of 125 samples collected from people in the city, who did not have a travel history, have been detected with Omicron variant of COVID-19, an official source told The Hindu.

These samples were collected during the past week and the genome sequencing was done on Monday and Tuesday by Delhi government-run Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS). The rest of the 125 samples were Delta variant of the virus and lineages.

“These 125 samples are from different labs in the city and not from the airport. This shows that there is transmission of the Omicron variant in the community and there is no point in sending all positive samples to check whether they are Omicron variant,” a Delhi government official said.

Community spread

Dr. Jugal Kishore, Head of the Community Medicine Department at Safdarjung Hospital, said: “This shows that community transmission of the Omicron variant has already started in the city. But there is nothing to worry as infection caused by Omicron is mild in nature and after the infection you will get immunity from different variants of the virus.”

The Delhi government official also said that it would not be practically possible to send all samples for genome sequencing as labs in the city do not have the capacity to genome sequence all positive samples the way cases are rising.

“The government is thinking of going back to the previous method in which 5% of samples selected at random are sent for genome sequencing. Samples of severe cases, breakthrough infections, reinfections etc. will also be sent for genome sequencing under this method,” the official said.

Earlier this month, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had said that all COVID-19 positive samples will be sent for genome sequencing.

38% Omicron cases

Also, Omicron variant has been detected in 101 of 263 samples sequenced at National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and 80 out of 133 samples processed at Lok Nayak Hospital. But results from these two centres include people who had travelled from abroad and those without any travel history.

Overall, data from these three labs shows that 38% of 468 positive samples have been detected with the Omicron variant between December 21 and 28.

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