By Shalini Bhardwaj
New Delhi [India], September 14 (ANI): The COVID-19 pandemic has posed many challenges, but the country has responded extremely well to all of them, said Dr Renu Swarup, Secretary of the Department of Biotechnology on Tuesday.
"This COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought so many challenges to us, has brought to the forefront the strength that we have in our science and technology. Our science and technology have responded not just to national but to global challenges. We have responded, extremely well," said Dr Swarup in an interview with ANI today.
She further stated that the country built a strong network of consortium of labs - Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) - which was tasked with analysing emerging variants of the COVID-19 after the first mutation was reported.
"Last year in December, there was a report about the first major mutation called the Alpha mutation. We immediately took on a national network to tackle that. Before this, institutions were doing their own genome sequencing. We did sample sequences across the country, which did not reveal any mutations of relevance, but when the first variant of concern was announced, we immediately took this up. And from then till now, we built a very strong network that is called the INSACOG," she said.
She further reiterated the remarkable success of the country in setting up INSACOG and said that it started with just 10 laboratories.
"It is a multi-agency network which has Department of Biotechnology, Union Health Ministry, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), and Council of Scientific And Industrial Research (CSIR). Now, we have the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISER), Indian Institute of Science, and most importantly many state government laboratories that will come on board. It is a network of about 35 laboratories and we are now moving clearly towards a network of about 50 laboratories. We have expanded to bring in the private sector, as partners wherever we feel the need for expanded capacity. We have in addition the sentinel sites which are around 300 across the country," said Dr Swarup.
Meanwhile, India has delivered more than 75 crores of COVID-19 vaccine doses since the launch of the nationwide vaccination drive in January this year.
"It is a matter of great pride for us that today is the 75th year. We have been able to complete 75 crore vaccinations. It is a number which is many times more than the population of any country. What is also a matter of much greater pride is that all these vaccine doses have been manufactured and developed within our own country," she said.
Extending her greetings to the people over the country's achievement, she said, "This is clearly a recognition of the strength that we have in our scientists along with our vaccine developers and our manufacturers. Congratulations to everybody who has been a part of this mission." (ANI)