India to expand genome sequencing network to neighbourhood: PM Modi at global summit

India to expand genome sequencing network to neighbourhood: PM Modi at global summit

With genomic surveillance playing a crucial role in tracking new variants of concerns of the novel coronavirus, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday announced that India’s genomic sequencing network would be extended to neighbouring countries.

Delivering his remarks in the opening session of the second global Covid virtual summit, Modi announced that the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (Insacog), a national multi-agency consortium of genome sequencing laboratories established in December 2020, would soon be extended to neighbouring countries.

Insacog was established to expand the whole-genome sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 virus across India with the aim of understanding 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 the sequencing of samples done in the laboratories under Insacog.

“India has developed low-cost mitigation technologies for testing, treating and data management. We have offered these capabilities to other countries. India’s genomic consortium has contributed significantly to the global database on the virus. I am happy to share that we will extend this network to countries in our neighbourhood,” Modi said.

During the summit, Modi said that a coordinated global response was required to combat future health emergencies and that the World Health Organization must be reformed. “It is clear that a coordinated global response is required to combat future health emergencies. We must build a resilient global supply chain and enable access to vaccines and medicines. WTO (World Trade Organization) rules, particularly TRIPS (The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights), need to be more flexible. WHO must be reformed and strengthened to build a more resilient global health security architecture,” he said.

Stating that India runs the world’s largest vaccination drive, Modi said there was a need to streamline the WHO’s approval process for vaccines and therapeutics. “We also call for streamlining WHO’s approval process for vaccines and therapeutics to keep the supply chain stable and predictable. As a responsible member of the global community, India is ready to play a key role in these efforts,” he said.

“Our vaccination programme is the largest in the world. We have fully vaccinated almost 90 per cent of the adult population and more than 50 million children. India manufactures four WHO-approved vaccines and has the capacity to produce 5 billion doses this year. We supplied over 200 million doses to 98 countries bilaterally and through (the United Nations’) Covax,” Modi said.

Modi also highlighted the use of traditional medicine in the country to boost immunity. “In India, we extensively use our traditional medicine to supplement our fight against Covid and to boost immunity, saving countless lives. Last month we laid the foundation for the WHO centre for traditional medicine in India with the aim to make this knowledge available to the world,” he said.

“The Covid pandemic continues to disrupt lives and supply chains and test the resilience of open societies. In India, we adopted a people-centric strategy against the pandemic. We have made the highest ever allocation to the annual healthcare budget,” the prime minister said.

Modi participated in the second global Covid virtual summit at the invitation of US President Joe Biden. The summit intends to galvanise new actions to address the continued challenges of the pandemic and build a stronger global health security architecture.

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