Preparations afoot to face ”Omicron”

Last weekend, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had directed the authorities across the country to be proactive in respect of the new Omicron variant which is claimed to spread faster than the variant we saw in the second wave that hit the country badly this year . Despite that , if preparations of all sorts including testing facilities and necessary infrastructure to deal with the threat are nowhere to be seen or are quite deficient , it would mean not only the inevitable happening but amounting to knowingly putting the pigeon before the cat. The implications of the new variant or even of the one seen in the second wave getting resurrected cannot be afforded to be taken lightly. Against this backdrop, what was planned even during the currency of the second wave in Jammu and Kashmir in respect of advanced testing facilities of the samples of COVID positive patients to be provided have remained only on papers. In other words, Genome Sequencing laboratories, one each in Srinagar in SKIMS, Soura and in Jammu in Government Medical College respectively have so far not been set up.
It may be noted that this specialised testing called Genome Sequencing testing is all about keeping such facilities and infrastructure in place where the entire genetic makeup of organism or cell type to find changes in certain critical areas of an organism is known. In non-technical and simple parlance , it means just like a human eye can scan a sequence of letters to read a sentence , in the same way Genome Sequencing equipment / machines read a sequence of DNA bases. This non-action of the UT Government leads to sending samples of positive cases for such testing – Genome Sequencing – to National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Delhi. That not only results in the crucial time factor and delay but even may tell upon the quality of testing . It is important to note that Government of India has already advised the State / UT Governments to arrange send every positive sample of COVID for genomic testing at the laboratory network having the Genomic Sequencing testing facilities. It is precisely for the reason to determine the type of variant in order to prevent the new threat of Omicron from engulfing in unmanageable proportions looking to its such characteristics.
Under such circumstances, we feel that had these two laboratories been set up in the UT as planned and envisaged , the new variant which has started to knock at our doors would have been at least authoritatively detected in COVID positive patients right in time. That is precisely because every corona virus patient who otherwise tests positive under the normal testing must necessarily undergo Genome sequencing testing to remove the doubt or confirm the presence of the new more dreaded variant.. The fight against the COVID virus , ever since its ”arrival ” has broadly been aimed at preventing its spread and therefore, every possible effort expended is worth its value in detecting at the earliest about the new Omicron in positive patients. We learn that the equipment required for such testing facilities not costing more than Rs.2 crore each for the proposed two laboratories not having been procured and installed so far is a matter of a sheer recklessness towards fighting the menace rather the question of an expenditure of just a paltry sum of Rs.4 crore in total excluding other overhead sundry expenses.
Administrative and procedural measures sticking to conventional modes for obvious reasons cannot be contested in entirety but at times of urgent moments some sort of departure means a practical and probably the desired approach. In that case, if only a single bid for the proposed laboratory equipment / machines was received in response to floating of tenders, why the same was not accepted as against what the present position is in the absence thereof , so that by now the UT would have been self sufficient in handling the Genomic Sequencing testing. That, reportedly it having been decided now to cause the specifications of that single bid match with the requirements and that too going to take another 60 days time is better not to be commented upon in respect of how decisions in critical matters are taken in the UT.