As fears mount over the newly identified coronavirus variant Omicron, governments around the world are scrambling to protect their citizens from a potential outbreak.
The new mutation, which is potentially more transmissible, was first discovered in South Africa and has since been detected in Australia, United Kingdom, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Czech Republic and Hong Kong.
A series of countries across the world began restricting travel from the region, to try to head off any threat to global efforts against the pandemic. Scientists are racing to determine the threat posed by the heavily mutated strain, particularly whether it can evade existing vaccines as it has been proven to be more transmissible than the dominant Delta variant.
In view of this, India is also gearing up to trace, track, control and contain the spread of the virus that might hit the country in future.
According to the reports, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan has written to states and union territories, asking them to enforce intensive containment and active surveillance measures along with an increase in coverage of vaccination and lastly to ensure that people adhere to Covid-19 appropriate norms.
India has also placed nations where this variant of concern has been found in the category of “at-risk” countries for additional follow-up measures of travellers coming to India.
The centre has also told states to set up a reporting mechanism for obtaining past travel details of passengers coming through international flights, and to review this at their level.
The centre also criticized states for the low testing rates and has said due to the absence of sufficient testing it will be extremely difficult to determine the true level of infection spread.
The centre has also ordered to continuously monitor the hotspots, or areas where recent cluster of positive cases have emerged.
States have also been advised to achieve positivity rate below 5 per cent, while focusing on increasing the number of tests and sharing RT-PCR tests to help in early identification. States were further requested to optimally use financial support provided by the government.
INSACOG, a consortium involved in the genome sequencing of coronavirus has been set up to monitor circulating variants in the country. Keeping in view the discourse on Covid-19 that has been largely influenced by misinformation in the previous year, states were advised to proactively and regularly address the concerns of community through press briefings and state bulletins.
Meanwhile South Africa has complained that it was being punished with air travel bans for being the first one to detect the strain which has been termed as a ‘Variant of Concern’ by WHO.