In view of the growing threat posed by the 'Variant of Concern'" Omicron, and with the third wave of COVID-19 looming in the Northeast, the Assam government is contemplating setting up a genomic sequencing laboratory in Guwahati.
Assam health minister Keshab Mahanta, along with a team of virologists, visited the Jorhat-based North East Institute of Science and Technology (NEIST) and discussed the matter with the authorities and scientists there on Wednesday.
"Assam has been consistently fighting against COVID-19 and all preventive measures are in force to protect the citizens from the virus. Considering the emergence of the Omicron variant in the country, we have beefed up measures in our state," Mahanta said
The minister met CSIR-NEIST director Dr G Narahari Shastry in the presence of the National Health Mission Assam managing director and deliberated on enhancing the state's medical infrastructure, including setting up a COVID-testing laboratory in Guwahati, and other facilities for better diagnosis.
The deliberations have been prompted by the growing need and importance of SARS-CoV-2 genome sequencing in the Northeast keeping the Omicron scare in context.
The minister and virologists also visited the advanced molecular laboratory of NEIST.
A COVID-19 testing laboratory was established in the Jorhat campus of the North East Institute of Science and Technology (NEIST) in mid-2020.A COVID-19 testing laboratory was established in the Jorhat campus of the North East Institute of Science and Technology (NEIST) in mid-2020.
The institute's Biotechnology division has been playing a pivotal role in carrying out RT-PCR-based COVID-19 tests.
Scientists have been using genome sequencing to track SARS-CoV-2 almost in real-time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Such sequencing helps researchers identify variants that spread to new regions.
Currently, India has recorded about 950 Omicron cases, with 21 states in the country reporting increasing cases of Omicron over the past few weeks.
The 'Variant of Concern' has also made its way to the Northeast recently, with a 48-year-old man from Manipur, with a travel history to Tanzania in East Africa, testing positive for Omicron in Imphal.
Three other family members of the infected person have also tested positive for COVID-19 but the results of the genome sequencing of their samples are awaited to confirm whether they are Omicron-infected or not.