With India reporting 101 cases of Omicron variant of Covid-19 so far, Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) on Saturday has reiterated its demand to set up a genetic testing lab in Kashmir.
“That would help detect and track the new variant of Covid-19,” said DAK President and Influenza expert Dr Nisar ul Hassan.
The DAK President said genetic testing lab will not only help in identifying Omicron that might have sneaked into the valley, but will also check whether any new mutant has emerged in the region.
“Detecting the mutant would help plan appropriate and effective public health strategy to prevent and control the spread of the new variant in the valley,” he said.
Dr Hassan said tracing the variant early would be critical to prevent another deadly wave of Covid-19 like the one we saw earlier.
“Genetic testing can serve as an early warning system to guide public health response. It can help in identification of hotspots which is critical to plan targeted public health interventions to control the spread of the disease,” he said.
“Genome sequencing is imperative to understand how the variant is behaving in terms of infectivity, severity, response to treatment,” said Dr Nisar adding “we have seen how previous variants behaved differently in different populations.”
General Secretary DAK Dr Arshad Ali said Jammu and Kashmir is seeing a rise in the number of infections in fully vaccinated persons which could be due to the variant.
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“We need to ramp up “random” genetic testing. Travel history alone should not be the deciding factor for sequencing the samples as Karnataka doctor, who was among the first two cases of Omicron had no travel history,” he said.
Spokesperson DAK Dr Riyaz Ahmad Dagga said with no genetic testing facility in Kashmir, samples are sent outside valley for sequencing which results in delay of test reports.
“If we don’t know the changes in the genetic structure of the virus, we are running blind; fighting a pandemic without doing adequate genome sequencing is almost fighting an unknown enemy,” he said.
“Omicron, a highly mutated variant appears to be more infectious than the previous Covid-19 variants. First identified in South Africa, the new variant has been detected in 85 nations. The virus is causing a massive spike in cases across Europe,” he added.