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Omicron: India to review Covid SOP, countries impose travel restrictions and other key developments today

In view of the threat posed by Omicron variant of Covid-19, an emergency meeting was chaired by Union Interior Minister Rajesh Bhushan after a review of the situation by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Interior Ministry said on Sunday.

The MHA said that given the current global scenario, ways to strengthen preventive measures were discussed at the meeting. The Center will now review SOPs on testing and monitoring international passengers, especially from countries in the “at risk” category. In addition, genomic surveillance for Covid-19 variants will be further intensified.

As reports emerge of the Omicron variant spreading to more countries and the Center considers measures to avoid the possibility of another peak in Covid-19 cases, here are the main developments of the day:

Test international travelers, focus on genome sequencing: Center informs states

The WHO having classified Omicron as a variant of concern, the Department of Health ordered states review the detailed travel history of passengers arriving via international flights and make absolutely sure that travelers from “at risk” countries are tested. All samples that test for Covid-positive should be sent quickly for genome sequencing, the ministry said.

Union Health Secretary Bhushan, while stressing to states the need for rigorous oversight of international passengers, said there is “already a reporting mechanism in place to obtain details of past journeys from arriving passengers. by international flight ”.

The Department of Health has asked states to review detailed travel history for passengers arriving via international flights. (PA)

The Department of Health has asked states to continue monitoring hot spots, which are areas where a recent cluster of positive cases has emerged. Bhushan also called on states to implement intensive containment measures, undertake active surveillance to ensure compliance with appropriate Covid behaviors and increase vaccination coverage.

Omicron variant can bypass vaccines: AIIMS chief

The new variant of Omicron is said to have over 30 mutations in the spike protein region, giving it the potential to develop an immune escape mechanism, and therefore the efficacy of vaccines against it needs to be critically evaluated. said AIIMS chief Dr Randeep Guelria.

The presence of the spike protein facilitates entry of a virus into the host cell and is responsible for making it transmissible and causing infection. “The new variant of the coronavirus is said to have more than 30 mutations in the spike protein region and therefore has the potential to develop immune-escape mechanisms. Since most vaccines (work by) forming antibodies against the spike protein, so many mutations in the spike protein region can lead to decreased efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines, ”the director told PTI from AIIMS, Dr Randeep Guelria.

In such a scenario, the efficacy of vaccines, including those used in India, must be evaluated “critically”, he added.

“The Covid is not over yet”, warns Prime Minister Modi in “Mann Ki Baat”

Amid reports of the spread of the Omicron variant in many countries, Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned in the 83rd episode of his “Mann Ki Baat” radio show that the “pandemic is not over yet” , urging people to remain vigilant and take all possible precautions. to prevent the spread of the deadly disease.

“Never forget that the crown is not yet gone. It is our responsibility to take all precautions,” Prime Minister Modi said before signing.

Prime Minister Modi chaired a high-level conference with senior officials on Saturday to discuss the possible impact of the new variant as well as mitigation strategies.

Kejriwal writes to PM asking him to stop flights from certain areas

Chief Minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi Sunday, asking him to stop international flights from regions experiencing an increase in Covid-19 cases.

“Our country has waged a fierce battle against Corona for the past one and a half years. With great difficulty and thanks to the selfless service of millions of our Covid warriors, our country has recovered from Corona. We must do everything to prevent the worrying new variant, recently recognized by the WHO, from entering India. A number of countries, including the European Union, have suspended travel to the affected regions. I urge you to stop flights from these areas with immediate effect. Any delay in this regard can prove detrimental if an affected person enters India, ”he wrote.

BMC announces new restrictions for international passengers

Mumbai’s civic body has introduced new restrictions on international passengers arriving in the city and has been “extremely vigilant” in this regard.

According to the latest guidelines issued by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), international passengers traveling or transiting through South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana – the three countries where Omicron has been detected – will have to undergo mandatory RT-PCR tests. at Bombay Airport. If a traveler tests positive for Covid-19, they will be sent to institutional quarantine and samples will be sent for genome sequencing. Until recently, a passenger who tested positive was sent to home quarantine.

All passengers arriving at Mumbai Airport will need to have their passports examined at the immigration counter for their travel history for the past two weeks.

Covid-positive South Africans infected with Delta variant: Official

The two South African nationals who tested positive for COVID-19 in Bangalore were found infected with the delta variant, an official from the rural district of Bengaluru said on condition of anonymity.

He said the duo tested positive on November 11 and 20, raising concerns that they might be infected with the new COVID-19 variant “Omicron,” which has become a new cause of concern around the world. According to him, from November 1 to 26, 94 people had come from South Africa, including two who tested positive for regular Covid-19.

Australia confirms two cases of Omicron variant

Australia confirmed on Sunday that two people who arrived from Africa over the weekend tested positive for the Omicron coronavirus variant, adding to a growing number of countries battling the highly infectious strain.

Health officials in New South Wales, the most populous state, said the two passengers arrived in the state capital, Sydney, on Saturday evening and tested positive for Covid-19 late overnight, before genome sequencing confirms the Omicron variant on Sunday.

Australia joined Britain, Germany and Italy in detecting cases of Omicron over the weekend as more countries imposed travel restrictions from from southern Africa.

Indonesia to ban arrivals from 8 African countries

Indonesia will ban the arrival of travelers who have traveled to eight African countries to curb the spread of the new Omicron variant of Covid-19, an official document revealed on Sunday. Indonesia, home to the popular tourist island of Bali, will not allow people who have visited South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique, Eswatini or Nigeria to in the last 14 days.

Israel bans foreign travelers

Israel has decided to ban the entry of foreigners and to impose quarantine on all Israelis arriving from abroad.

“Restricting the country’s borders is not an easy step, but it is a temporary and necessary step,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting.

Dr Ran Balicer, head of the government advisory group on Covid-19, told Israeli public radio Kan that the new measures were needed for the “fog of war” surrounding the new variant, saying it was “better off. ‘act early and strictly’ to prevent its spread.

South Africa criticizes countries for imposing travel bans

South Africa’s leading health federation on Sunday criticized the 18 countries that have imposed travel bans in the country, saying the world must avoid such a “knee-jerk reaction” if it wants “transparency” in sharing critical medical data.

Omicron Students from Tshwane University of Technology return to their residences in Pretoria, South Africa (AP)

The decision by 18 countries to ban flights to and from South Africa was “premature, as there is still not enough information about the dangerousness of the variant,” said Angelique Coetzee, president of the South African Medical Association (SAMA).

Coetzee also defended the decision to announce the findings, stressing that South Africa should be praised and not vilified for it. “I suspect that because our scientists are very alert and do a lot of sequencing in the background, maybe these European countries missed it because of the symptoms,” Coetzee told news channel Newzroom Afrika. .

(With contributions from the agency)

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