In sequencing, the chemical structure of the virus sample is analysed to understand if and how it is different from other strands of the virus already detected.
“We have started a pilot project with SpiceHealth here at the airport to find out if we can generate the ‘sequence’ in less than 48 hours and inform the government in case there is a virus variant,” said Anurag Agrawal, Director, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research – Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (CSIR-IGIB).
Samples shipped to regional labs in India take around one week to do the sequencing.
India had suspended all passenger flights connecting the two countries from December 23 to January 7 as a new and more contagious variant of the coronavirus emerged in the UK.
“This is a path breaking initiative through which a sophisticated diagnostic capability has been brought to the doorstep, where it is required the most,” said Niti Aayog Member Health V K Paul, after inaugurating the lab on Thursday morning.
Avani Singh, CEO, SpiceHealth, said, “The new mutant strains of coronavirus need immediate and effective attention…Early detection will be crucial to stop the spread of new mutant viruses coming into our country.”
International passengers – except the ones coming from the UK – can avoid institutional quarantine in India only when either they get a Covid-negative report from a RT-PCR test done 72 hours prior to the journey or from the RT-PCR test done on arrival at the airport.
Currently, each passenger coming from the UK has to bring Covid-negative report from a sample taken 72 hours prior to the journey, then get tested again after landing in India.
Moreover, the rules of the Delhi government require all passengers from UK – irrespective of their test result at the airport – to under seven days institutional quarantine and seven days home quarantine.