New Delhi: The Centre on Friday asked states to follow up on sending samples for genome testing to track circulating variants of coronavirus, even as the total number of covid-19 cases caused by mutant variants rose to 400.

All states and Union territories have been tagged to 10 national laboratories under the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics consortium with the National Centre for Disease Control as the nodal institute, the Union health ministry said. The government has recently confirmed circulation of the UK, South Africa, and Brazil mutant variants of coronavirus in the country.

The government needs to look at the diagnostics more closely as the mutant strains continue to increase the disease burden, public health experts have said.

“Analysing power, as well as the density of sequencing ability, will be important for India. We need to update our regulatory processes also for this and these modifications can be quickly brought to fruition. The US Food and Drug Administration norms have provided a relatively easy guideline for achieving this. Countries need to be alert and create diagnostic kits depending on the presence of mutations,” said professor N.K. Ganguly, president, Jawaharlal Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research, and former director general of the Indian Council of Medical Research.

Booster shots in existing vaccines can be given to neutralize the effects of mutations, Ganguly suggested.

The Centre has also advised states and Union territories to improve testing in districts reporting reduction in testing and increase the overall share of RT-PCR tests to more than 70% of total testing, especially in districts dependent on high levels of antigen testing in line with the government’s ‘test, track, and treat’ strategy.

Covid-19 vaccination is progressing in the country with more than 40 million doses being administered, but India’s covid-19 burden continues to increase. Some states are reporting a surge in new daily covid-19 cases, according to Union health ministry data. Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnataka, Gujarat, and Chhattisgarh together account for 80.63% of the daily new cases.

More than 39,726 new daily cases were reported till Friday morning, the highest in this year. Maharashtra continues to report the highest number of such cases at 25,833, which is 65% of the total. It is followed by Punjab with 2,369. Kerala reported 1,899 new cases.

The country also recorded more than 156 deaths on Friday.

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