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New Covid variant: India calls for strict screening of foreign fliers

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New Covid variant: India calls for strict screening of foreign fliers
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New Delhi: Amid multiple cases of Covid-19 variant B.1.1.529 reported in Botswana, South Africa and Hong Kong, India on Thursday called for rigorous screening and testing of travellers coming from these countries, NDTV reported.

As per several reports, the new variant of COVID-19 has been found with multiple mutations that have led to a surge in infections and putting the affected countries on alert.

As a precautionary measure, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan in a letter has directed all states and union territories to ensure that the samples of travellers turning positive are sent to designated genome sequencing laboratories promptly.

The states and UTs have also been asked to closely track and test the contacts of these international travellers as per Health Ministry guidelines.

In the letter, the union health ministry took note of the significantly high number of mutations being reported in the new variant which has serious public health implications as India has just recently eased visa restrictions for international travel.

"lt has now been reported by NCDC (National Centre for Disease Control) that multiple cases of a COVID-19 variant 8.1.1529 have been reported in Botswana (3 cases), South Africa (6 cases) and Honk Kong (1 case). This variant is reported to have a significantly high number of mutations, and thus, has serious public health implications for the country, given recently relaxed visa restrictions and opening up of international travel," the letter read.

"lt is therefore imperative that all international travellers travelling from and transiting through these countries, (they are part of the "at-risk" Country Category of international travellers coming to India) and also including all other 'at risk' countries indicated in the revised Guidelines for international Arrivals issued by this Ministry dated 11.11.2021, are subjected to rigorous screening and testing, as per MoHFW Guidelines. The contacts of these international travellers must also be closely tracked and tested as per MoHFW guidelines," it said.

The new variant of COVID-19 feared to have a high amount of spike mutations unseen before, has been detected in South Africa and other counties, with authorities there confirming 22 positive cases associated with it on Thursday. The number of daily infections in Africa's hardest-hit country has increased tenfold since the start of the month.

A virologist at Imperial College London, Dr Tom Peacock, had posted details of the new variant classed as B.1.1.529 on his Twitter account earlier this week, following which scientists have been weighing in on what is being considered a variant of concern though it is yet to be formally categorised in the UK.

The WHO said it is "closely monitoring" the reported variant and is expected to convene a technical meeting on Friday to determine if it should be designated a variant of "interest" or of "concern".

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TAGS:New Covid variantCovid19 updates
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