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New Covid-19 Variant B.1.1529 Puts India on Alert, Strict Screening Of Travellers From 3 Nations Ordered

Airport staff checking temperature of incoming passengers (Source: PTI)

New Delhi: Amid reports of emerging cases of COVID-19 variant B.1.1529 in some countries, including South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana, the Centre on Thursday asked all states and union territories to conduct rigorous screening and testing of all international travellers coming from or transiting through these nations. The new COVID-19 variant being reported in these countries is found to have serious public health implications.

In a letter to additional chief secretaries or principal secretaries or secretaries (Health) of the states and union territories, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan asked them to ensure that samples of travellers turning positive are sent to the designated IGSLS or genome sequencing laboratories promptly.

Fresh Guidelines For the States And UTs
  • All international travellers travelling from and transiting through South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana, (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, issued on November 11, 2021, are subjected to rigorous screening and testing.
  • The contacts of these international travellers must also be closely tracked and tested as per MoHFW guidelines.
  • The states and union territories are also requested to ensure that samples of travellers turning positive are sent to the designated IGSLS promptly as per the INSACOG Guidance Document issued by this Ministry dated 15 July, 2021.
  • State surveillance officers must also establish close coordination with their designated/tagged IGSLS for expediting results of genomic analysis, so that necessary public health measures may be undertaken by the states and union territories in case presence of variant of concern or variant of interest is reported by the INSACOG network.
  • States and UTs must adhere to the overarching Test-Track Treat-Vaccinate principle to ensure stringent implementation of containment measures as per MoHFW guidelines, and to prevent the spread of VoC/Vols and formation of clusters of cases.

ALSO READ: 66 Fully-Vaccinated Medical College Students Test Positive For Covid-19 In Karnataka

What Is Know About The B.1.1529 Variant Of Covid-19?

As per the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), multiple cases of COVID-19 variant, B.1.1529, have been reported in Botswana (3 cases), South Africa (6) and Hong 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, in view of recently relaxed visa restrictions and opening up of international travel,” Bhushan said in the latest advisory.

The new variant of COVID-19, feared to have a high amount of spike mutations unseen before, has been detected in South Africa, with authorities there confirming 22 positive cases associated with it on Thursday.

ALSO READ: Germany Marks 100,000 Deaths From Covid-19, Angela Merkel Calls It A ‘Very Sad Day’

Dr Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London, 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.

Scientists from across the world will be looking for indicators that the new strain is gaining traction or spreading more broadly and quickly. The high number of spike mutations is problematic in terms of increased transmissibility as well as immune evasion.

(With PTI Inputs)

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