Kashmir to intensify surveillance of COVID19 UK variant

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Samples of people arriving from outside India will be tested for COVID19 at SKIMS Soura alone, the Institute now a nodal point for surveillance of genomic UK variants of COVID19 among travellers.

An order issued today by Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Pandurang K Pole, said SKIMS Soura has been ordered to send 5 percent of all the samples that have tested positive in the past two months for genomic sequencing to Regional Genome Sequencing Laboratory, National Center for Disease Control (New Delhi). The exercise, the order states, will help in ascertaining the circulating strain of SARS CoV2 from the representative samples that tested positive since 23 November 2020. The Institute is expected to get a daily update from this advanced lab about the genome of SARS CoV2 circulating in the population.

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Financial Commissioner Health and Medical Education, Atal Dulloo said there was a change in policy regarding requirements for genome testing. Earlier, he said, as per GoI directive, only people arriving from the UK would be tested for COVID19 UK variant, which was later expanded to all European countries. “Now, irrespective of the country, we will need to further analyze the genome of a positive sample from a traveler,” he said.

As per the Government order, samples of any traveler arriving from outside India, if positive for SARS CoV2, will be sent for genome testing to NCDC New Delhi by SKIMS Soura.

In the past one month, a senior health official said, at least 15 people arriving from abroad to J&K have been tested for the genomic UK Variant of COVID19 that has been reported from the UK and some other European countries. He however said that none of the samples tested positive.

In Kashmir, four samples have been sent for genome testing, three of which have already tested negative. One suspected case, a traveler returning from an African nation to Kashmir, is currently admitted at JLNM Hospital. His report is awaited, Dr Bilquees Shah, Nodal Officer COVID19 at this designated facility said.

Till Saturday, Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said, 150 cases of COVID19 UK Variant stood confirmed in India.