New Delhi International Airport in India has launched a first-of-its-kind genome sequencing laboratory for testing samples of all arriving passengers who test positive for Covid-19.

The new portable testing laboratory has been set up by SpiceHealth in collaboration with the government research institute CSIR-IGIB.

The aim of the lab is to identify and contain the new variants of coronavirus discovered in the UK and other countries, so that timely action can be taken accordingly.

CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology director Dr Anurag Agrawal was quoted by Live Mint as saying: “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.”

Soon after the suspension of flights from the UK on 23 December 2020, India commenced genome sequencing of Covid-19 positive samples of passengers returning from the UK.

As of now, nearly 102 passengers have been found positive with the new UK variant, reported Hindustan Times.

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To track mutations in the Sars-CoV-2 virus, India started sequencing the genes of at least 5% of all Covid-19 positive samples.

The Indian Government has formed a genomic surveillance consortium under the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) for conducting the sequencing.

Furthermore, around ten advanced labs situated across the country have begun conducting genome sequencing of samples.

In December 2020, a laboratory network named Indian Sars-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (Insacog) was created for this purpose.

Some of the labs included in the network are NIMHANS in Bengaluru, CCMB in Hyderabad, NIV in Pune, ILS in Bhubaneswar and NCDC in New Delhi.

India is also set to launch the world’s largest Covid-19 vaccination drive on 16 January, reported Live Mint.

Through video conferencing, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the nationwide rollout of vaccination at nearly 3,006 session sites.