Omicron: DAK Sounds Alarm, Calls For Enhanced Genome Sequencing

Srinagar- With the emergence of a new Covid-19 variant carrying worrisome mutations, Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) on Saturday called for enhanced genome sequencing of Covid-19 positive samples to look for the variant in the valley.

“We need to expedite the genome sequencing to identify the variant early and protect the community from another wave of Covid-19,” said DAK President and Influenza expert Dr Nisar ul Hassan.

“Picking up the variant early is key to formulate appropriate and effective health policy that would help prevent and control its spread in the community,” he said.

The DAK President said genome sequencing is a laboratory method that is used to identify changes (mutations) in the genetic structure of the virus.

“A new variant of Covid-19 B.1.1.529 has surfaced in South Africa and has also been identified in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel,” he said.

Dr Hassan said the variant has 32 mutations in the region of the genome that controls production of the viral spike protein.

“The spike protein of the virus is critical for viral binding and entry to human cells. It is also the chief target of antibodies that the immune system produces to fight Covid-19 infection.” he added.

“Dubbed as Omicron, WHO has designated the new variant as variant of Concern,” said Dr Nisar.

He said a variant is labeled as variant of concern when the evidence shows the virus is more infectious, is causing more severe disease and is less responsive to existing control measures such as diagnostics, vaccine or treatment or a combination of these factors.

“South Africa has reported a fourfold increase in the number of new cases coinciding with the emergence of the new variant.

Many countries including Europe, US and Canada has imposed travel restrictions from South Africa and several other African countries,” he added.

Spokesperson DAK Dr Riyaz Amad Dagga said in today’s connected world, an outbreak anywhere is a risk everywhere.

Kashmir being the most favorite tourist destination, the mutant can come to us anytime. We have to be prepared and alert.

“We have to prepare in advance,” he said adding advance planning and preparedness is critical to help mitigate the impact of any eventuality.

General Secretary DAK Dr Arshad Ali said the best way to prevent the variant is to stop it from coming in as once the virus enters the community it is difficult to control it.

“Passengers at Srinagar international airport especially coming from affected countries should be rigorously screened to prevent the entry and spread of the variant in the valley,” he said.

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