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Genomic sequencing lab to come up at Victoria Hospital

With Karnataka’s Covid-19 tally rising steadily, the state government will set up an in-house lab at Victoria Hospital to improve genomic sequencing.

The decision was taken at a meeting that Minister for Health and Family Welfare Dr K Sudhakar held with the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) and senior department officials on Monday.

According to Randeep D, Commissioner, Health and Family Welfare Department, the lab would help reduce the turnaround time for genomic sequencing, which is crucial for detecting any new variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

At the meeting, participants noted that despite the high Covid tally, hospitalisations have remained low while deaths are rare. The committee dispelled fears that this is the precursor to the fourth wave because no different variants of concern have been detected, Randeep said. “There is no need to panic,” he added.

While Ba.4 and Ba.5, the two sub-variants of the Omicron variant, have been detected in wastewater samples, they have not been genome-sequenced as yet.

The lab at Victoria Hospital will help reduce the turnaround time for genome-sequencing results. “Presently, the turnaround time is high because samples are few and we have to wait for a certain minimum number of samples to run the cycle. Only samples with a Ct value of less than 25 are sequenced,” he explained.

Ct, or cycle threshold, value is the number of cycles necessary to spot the value. The lab could open as early as seven to 10 days with outsourced nurses, pathologists and technicians, Randeep said.

At the meeting, there was unanimity on enforcing the mask mandate and improving the vaccine coverage.

Precautionary dose
Dr Sudhakar appealed to all eligible citizens to take the precautionary dose against Covid-19 and called for ramping up the vaccination for children aged over 5. He also stressed the need to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour, such as masking up, washing hands and maintaining social distance.

On June 10, the health commissioner issued a circular making mask-wearing compulsory in closed spaces such as shopping malls, hotels, restaurants, offices and other commercial establishments. Prior to that, the mask mandate was limited to public places. There are no fines yet. Deccan Herald

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