Even though the government has been rigorously conducting various tests, methods to keep a track on COVID-19 cases, there have been reports alleging that genome sequencing and analysis of the COVID19 declined sharply in India. However, the Centre has denied such false media reports and clarified that that the number of sequences, as quoted in the report, seems to be taken from Indian COVI-19 genome surveillance portal.
What is the myth?
Genome sequencing and analysis of the COVID-19 declined sharply in India even as cases of the disease continued to rise
What is the fact?
The sample sequencing by INSACOG has progressively increased. The sequences analysed in the IGIB SFTP are as per the collection date of samples and does not depict the number of samples sequenced in a particular month. The samples sequenced by labs of INSACOG consortium also depends on the samples sent by the respective States.
A look at the number of samples sequenced month wise:
The Initial part sequencing of samples by INSACOG labs was aimed at detecting the variants of concern (VOC) among incoming international travellers and also to see whether any person with VOC has entered the country in past one month (double the incubation period of 28 days) from the date of establishment of INSACOG (26th Of December, 2020). For the detection of presence of VOC inside country, 5% of the positives (by RT-PCR) were targeted for sequencing. Both the objectives were achieved by end of January, 2021.
Many states like Maharashtra, Punjab and Delhi started showing rising trends in the month of February and as a response, the sequencing was enhanced in 4 districts of Vidharbha, 10 districts of Maharashtra and around 10 districts of Punjab.
Moreover, the numbers have not been fixed to 300 samples per month or 10 sentinel sites per state. These are the indicative numbers and the states/UTs have been provided the flexibility of identifying more sentinel sites ensuring geographic representation from all parts.
Govt's strategy of sentinel surveillance:
The strategy of sentinel surveillance made sure that samples from each state were geographically well represented as the 5% of random sampling strategy resulted in samples from certain districts being over-represented, while some districts remained unrepresented from states. With the decrease in positivity, the samples availability from the sentinel sites catering to districts with zero or single digit weekly new cases has also gone down. Currently, over 86 districts in the country are having zero weekly new cases.
Since July onwards, for accurate sharing of sample particulars and timely communication of the WGS results, data for samples for WGS by the sentinel sites is being shared via IHIP portal which ensures real-time sharing of sample particulars and WGS results. Accordingly, 9066 samples were sent through sentinel sites in July and 6969 samples were shared in August.
Meanwhile, India logged 38,948 new coronavirus infections and 219 fresh fatalities, the lowest in 167 days, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Monday.
With the fresh cases, the total tally of COVID-19 cases has climbed to 3,30,27,621, while the death toll has climbed to 4,40,752.
The case fatality rate has declined to 1.33 per cent after 48 days, according to the data updated at 8 am. India had reported 199 deaths in a single day on March 23.
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