PM Modi to chair meeting on COVID situation amid concerns of new variant
New Delhi/IBNS: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday will chair a high-level meeting, to be attended by top government officials, on the present COVID-19 situation and vaccination status in the country.
The meeting is scheduled to be held at 10:30 AM and comes at a time when the world is reeling under the threat of the new COVID variant.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the recently-detected B.1.1.529 strain of COVID-19 as a variant of concern and named it as Omicron.
"Based on the evidence presented indicative of a detrimental change in Covid-19 epidemiology... the WHO has designated B.1.1.529 as a variant of concern (VOC), named Omicron," the UN health agency said in a statement.
This puts Omicron into the most-troubling category of COVID-19 variants besides the globally-dominant Delta.
The variant was first detected in southern Africa, which has led to a surge in infections in South Africa and other countries in the southern part of the continent.
It has also been detected in Botswana, Hong Kong and Israel.
Belgium on Friday detected its first case of the new variant of COVID-19, which also marks the first infection in Europe.
The French government on Friday announced to immediately suspend flights coming from the southern parts of Africa following the detection of a new Covid-19 variant in South Africa.
Besides, the United Kingdom, Singapore and Israel have also stopped flights from South Africa, Botswana and four other African nations.
On Thursday, India had called for rigorous screening and testing of travellers coming from South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana where a new variant of COVID-19 has been found with multiple mutations.
In a letter to states and union territories, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan asked them to ensure that samples such travellers turning positive are sent to designated genome sequencing laboratories promptly.
The contacts of these international travellers must also be closely tracked and tested as per Health Ministry guidelines, he 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," the letter had read.
Meanwhile, India registered 8,318 new cases in the last 24 hours. The country's active caseload stands at 1,07,019, which is lowest in 541 days.
The recovery rate is currently at 98.34 percent, the highest since March 2020.
Overall 121.06 crore vaccine doses have been administered so far under Nationwide Vaccination Drive.