NEW DELHI: In the wake of multiple cases of new Covid-19 variant B.1.1529 reported in Botswana, South Africa and Hong Kong, the Centre has asked states to conduct “rigorous screening and testing” of all international travellers coming from and transiting through these countries.
The new variant is reported to have a significantly high number of mutations, and thus has serious public health implications for the country, the health ministry said, especially at a time when visa restrictions have been relaxed and international travel is opening up.
The Centre has also asked states and UTs to closely track and test the contacts of international travellers from these countries. Botswana has so far reported three cases, South Africa six and Hong Kong one case.
“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 lndia) 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 health ministry guidelines,” health secretary Rajesh Bhushan said in a letter to all states on Thursday. Bhushan urged states to ensure that samples of travellers turning positive are sent to INSACOG genome sequencing laboratories promptly as per the ministry guidelines.
The state surveillance officers have also been asked to establish close coordination with their designated or tagged genome sequencing labs for expediting results of genomic analysis, to ensure necessary public health measures may be undertaken by the states and UTs in case presence of variants of concern is reported.