The fear of an impending third wave of the pandemic has intensified in parts of the world as a new COVID-19 variant has been detected in South Africa. To restrict the new COVID-19 variant from spreading in India, the Centre has issued strict guidelines for authorities.
In a new government order, the Centre has asked all the states and union territories to conduct rigorous screening and testing of all international travellers coming from or transiting through South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana, where a new and severe COVID-19 variant has been detected.
Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan on Thursday issued a letter addressed to additional chief secretary/principal secretary/secretary (Health) of all states and union territories, directing them to send the samples of COVID-19 positive travellers to designated genome sequencing laboratories promptly.
The National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has now reported that three countries have lodged multiple cases of the new COVID-19 variant B.1.1529. Botswana, South Africa and Hong Kong have reported a total of 3, 6 and 1 cases respectively.
In his letter, Bhushan wrote, “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 further wrote, “It 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 November 11, 2021, are subjected to rigorous screening and testing, as per MoHFW Guidelines.”
As per the new Health Ministry guidelines, the contacts of these international travellers must also be closely tracked and tested. These measures are being by the central government to make sure that the new COVID-19 variant doesn’t spread in India, triggering a possible third wave.
A new COVID-19 variant was recently detected by the scientists of South Africa, which is a cause for serious concern because of its severe health implications on the infected individual. The new variant is called B.1.1529, and will most likely be called ‘Nu’.
(With agency inputs)