Govt warns against new COVID variant identified in Africa, asks for rigorous screening and testing
New Delhi/UNI: In wake of the emergence of a new COVID-19 variant first detected in South Africa, the Union Health Ministry has asked all states and union territories to conduct rigorous screening and testing of international travelers arriving in India, especially from the countries where the latest variant is being reported.
In a letter addressed to additional chief secretary/principal secretary/secretary (Health) of all states and union territories, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan asked them to ensure that samples of travellers turning positive are sent to designated genome sequencing laboratories promptly.
The warning bell by the Centre rang after the variant, B.1.1529, was reported in South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana, where it has reportedly led to serious public health implications.
"lt has now been reported by NCDC 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)," Bhushan said.
"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," he warned.
"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 ministry suggested.