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The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) has sequenced 1,02,880 genomes of the coronavirus till 25 November, said the science and technology ministry on Thursday.

Responding to a question in Rajya Sabha, minister of state in the science and technology ministry Jitendra Singh said a total of 17 Covid-19 bio-repositories have been notified by the government.

“The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG), being coordinated by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), as on 25 November 2021 has sequenced 1,02,880 SARS-CoV-2 genomes," Singh said in a written response.

The INSACOG is a national multi-agency consortium of Genome Sequencing Laboratories (RGSLs) laboratories involved in genome sequencing of Covid-19. Initially, this consortium had 10 laboratories. Subsequently, the scope of laboratories under INSACOG was expanded.

It was established to expand whole-genome sequencing of the SARS-CoV-2 virus across the nation, aiding our understanding of how the virus spreads and evolves.

Any changes to the genetic code, or mutations in the virus, can be observed based on the analysis and sequencing of samples done in the laboratories under INSACOG.

Its objective is to establish sentinel surveillance and surge surveillance mechanisms for early detection of genomic variants and assist in formulating effective public health response.

Omicron in India

Singh's statement comes on the day India reported its first two cases of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 from Karnataka through the INSACOG network.

Lav Agarwal, the joint secretary in the Union health ministry, told a news conference in Delhi that both the patients had mild symptoms.

The Karnataka state authorities identified the patients as a 66-year-old South African man, who has since left for Dubai, and a 46-year-old male doctor working at a government hospital in Bengaluru.

Five contacts of the doctor have also tested positive and their samples have been sent for genomic sequencing. His 13 primary contacts and 205 secondary contacts have been tested.

Bengaluru civic agency officials said the South African national came to the city on 20 November and his samples were collected at the airport. After he tested Covid positive, his samples were sent for genomic sequencing.

According to officials, both persons were inoculated with two doses of the Covid vaccine.

The new potentially more contagious B.1.1.529 variant was first reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) from South Africa on 24 November, and has been designated as a "Variant of Concern" by the global body, which named it “Omicron".

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