Kerala to track new variants of COVID-19, asks district to send samples for WGS

Representational Image. Photo: ANI

Thiruvananthapuram: With coronavirus cases rising in certain foreign countries, including neighbouring China, the Kerala government on Thursday decided to conduct whole genome sequencing (WGS) of more samples to identify different COVID-19 variants.

The Health Department said districts have been directed to send more COVID samples for genomic sequencing to identify new variants. "Genomic surveillance using whole-genome sequencing of viruses will be conducted to track different COVID variants", it said in a statement here.

The health department directed the districts to send such samples for genetic testing at designated labs for each district and to report accurately if any new variants are identified so that prevention activities can be strengthened accordingly. It also said that the people admitted to hospitals with respiratory diseases and those with severe fever, sore throat and shortness of breath should be tested for COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Veena George said the state has strengthened measures to prevent spread of COVID-19 in the wake of rise in virus cases in other nations. "All districts are on alert. Districts are intensifying prevention and surveillance. It has been instructed to report immediately if cases are seen increasing anywhere and to strengthen prevention mechanisms accordingly. The health department will review the activities of all the districts on Friday," the minister said.

Urging people to be extra careful during Christmas and New Year holidays, she also urged them not to venture out in public places without wearing a mask.

"People with symptoms like fever, cough and cold should not go close to the elderly and children. The elderly, those with co-morbidities and children need special care. Wash your hands with soap and water after going outside", she said.

The state government on Wednesday had sounded an alert of a possible spread of the virus and directed the district authorities to gear up the whole genome sequencing of positive case samples for tracking the new variants.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has said his government has decided to intensify measures to prevent the spread of the virus in the southern state. Vijayan appealed to people to take steps to protect themselves from the virus, although COVID-19 cases are less in the state.

The CM has also reminded the public that the lessons learned during the peak period of COVID-19 in the state should be followed to deal with the virus. Several cities in China, including capital Beijing, have been witnessing a growing number of coronavirus cases attributed to a new variant of the Omicron strain with reports of overcrowded hospitals and shortage of beds.


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