New Delhi: The Centre on Monday offered to supply made-in-India Covid-19 vaccines, life-saving drugs, test kits and medical equipment to African countries battling the emergence of new Omicron variant of the Coronavirus.
"The Government of India stands ready to support the affected countries in Africa in dealing with the Omicron variant, including by supplies of 'Made in India' vaccines. Supplies can be undertaken through Covax or bilaterally," IANS quoted the Union Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) as saying.
Omicron has been designated a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organization (WHO), based on evidence that it has several mutations that may impact how easily it spreads or the severity of illness it causes.
A statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs on Monday said that the central government has cleared all orders placed so far by COVAX for supplies of Covishield vaccines including to African countries such as Malawi, Ethiopia, Zambia, Mozambique, Guinea and Lesotho.
"We have also cleared supplies of Covaxin to Botswana. Any new requirement projected either bilaterally or through Covax will be considered expeditiously," said the Ministry in a statement, adding that India also stands ready to supply essential life-saving drugs, test kits, gloves, PPE kits and medical equipment such as ventilators, as may be required.
Indian institutions would favourably consider cooperation in genomic surveillance and virus characterisation-related research work with their African counterparts.
The Union government has so far supplied more than 25 million doses of Made in India vaccines to 41 countries in Africa, including nearly one million doses as grant to 16 countries and more than 16 million doses under the Covax facility to 33 countries.
The new Covid variant -- Omicron -- was first reported to World Health Organisation (WHO) from South Africa on November 24, 2021.
The Union Health Ministry has updated international travel guidelines in light of multiple countries reporting cases due to Omicron. The Centre has said that all travellers coming from countries categorised as 'at risk' would have to undergo a mandatory COVID-19 test at the airport regardless of their vaccination status.
This test would be conducted in addition to India's requirement of an RT-PCR test within 72 hours before travelling. These guidelines are set to come into effect from December 21. Apart from this, airports would also need to conduct random COVID-19 tests on 5% of the travellers coming from countries that have not been classified as 'at risk'.