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Omicron scare: Govt to review international flights restart call, states on alert over new variant | 10 points

 India Today Web Desk 

New Delhi

November 28, 2021

UPDATED: November 29, 2021 00:52 IST

In view detection of Omicron variant cases in some countries, the Centre said it would review the resumption of scheduled international commercial flights. Meanwhile, the states have increased Covid-19 testing and surveillance.


As more countries announce travel curbs over the detection of new variant of coronavirus Omicron, the central government on Sunday said it would review the resumption of scheduled international commercial flights.


On Saturday, the government had listed a number of countries in the 'at risk' category. These include South Africa, China, Botswana, those in Europe including the UK, Brazil, Israel, Bangladesh, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Israel and Hong Kong.


The Centre also directed the state and union territory governments to increase Covid-19 testing, augment healthcare infrastructure, and increase genome sequencing.


Here are the top developments:

- The Centre would take a decision on the effective date of resumption of commercial international passenger flights after reviewing the "evolving global scenario" over Omicron variant of coronavirus, the Ministry of Home Affairs said. On Friday, the government had decided to resume commercial international flights from December 15.


- The MHA said that the government has decided to review the standard operating procedure on testing and surveillance of incoming international passengers, especially for those countries identified ‘at risk’ category. The MHA further said that Airport Health Officials (APHOs) and Port Health Officials (PHOs) would be sensitised for strict supervision of testing protocol at airports/ ports.


- Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan has written to all states and union territories to focus on intensive containment, active surveillance, enhanced testing, monitoring of hotspots, increased coverage of vaccination and augmentation of health infrastructure.


In the letter, Bhushan said that along with screening of passengers from “at-risk” nations and 14-day quarantine, the states should continue to monitor “hotspots” or areas where cluster of positive cases have emerged recently.


States should keep a close check on the emerging trend of cases and the positivity in an area and quickly isolate hotspots for effective containment of Covid-19, the letter stated.


- The Union Health Ministry also released a set of guidelines, making it mandatory for passengers travelling from or transiting through 'at-risk' countries to undergo RT-PCR test on arrival in India. They will also be required to wait for the results before leaving the airport or taking a connecting flight, the ministry said.


Travellers coming from countries other than those listed as 'at-risk' will be allowed to leave the airport and shall self-monitor their health for 14 days after arrival, but five percent of them will be randomly tested at the airport, it said.


- Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Sunday said the state government has extended the Covid-19 restrictions till December 31. Khattar said that the state's health department is regularly monitoring the situation in view of the Omicron variant, adding that he has asked the state officials to keep an eye on the evolving situation and be prepared for the "worst".


- Tamil Nadu Health Secretary Radhakrishnan has directed district collectors to enhance surveillance and sequencing efforts in view of the emergence of the Omicron strain of coronavirus. The health secretary also instructed officials to accelerate the vaccination coverage, especially among the priority population initially targeted for Covid-19 vaccination who remain unvaccinated or not yet fully vaccinated.

- Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to stop incoming flights from countries affected by Omicron variant of coronavirus.


"Our country has fought a tough fight against corona for the last one and half years. With great difficulty and due to the selfless service of millions of our Covid warriors, our country has recovered from coronavirus," Kejrieal wrote in the letter.


I have requested Hon’ble PM to immediately stop flights from those countries which are affected by new variant. Any delay could be very harmful.


— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) November 28, 2021

"We should do everything possible to prevent the new variant of concern, recently recognised by the WHO, from entering India... I urge you to stop flights from these regions with immediate effect. Any delay in this regard may prove harmful, if any affected person enters India," he added.


- The chief medical officer (CMO) of Gurugram said the district health department has constituted a task force regarding Omicron variant. Travellers and NRIs coming from South Africa, Brazil, Botswana, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Mauritius will be closely monitored, he said.


- Besides the Delhi chief minister, Karnataka CM Basavaraj Bommai also requested the Centre to impose a travel ban on passengers coming from South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana in view of the detection of new variant of SARS-CoV-2.


"A new strain of the Covid-19 has appeared abroad, which is mainly seen in South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana. European nations have imposed restrictions and the WHO has also raised an alarm against this new variant by calling it a matter of concern," PTI quoted Bommai as saying.


"We have also requested the Union government to ban travellers from the three countries (South Africa, Hongkong and Botswana)," he added.


- The Uttar Pradesh Government has also intensified screening and strengthened surveillance at the airports. Lucknow DM Abhishek Prakash told India Today that preparations for free RT-PCR tests for international flights have been made and it will be mandatory for those coming from different countries.


The state government has also put the health teams in all the 75 districts on alert. Five districts -- Agra, Prayagraj, Varanasi, Lucknow and Kanpur -- have been put on high alert.


- Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan held a meeting with senior officials over the Covid-19 situation in the state. After the meeting, he said all the people who arrived in the state from international destinations in the past one month will have to go undergo Covid-19 test. Chouhan also said that directives have been issued to increase the number of genome sequencing examination, news agency PTI reported.


- Uttarakhand Health Secretary Dr Pankaj Kumar Pandey has instructed all the district magistrates to monitor the people coming from outside along with intensive testing in view of the emergency of Omicron variant of coronavirus, reported ANI.

(With inputs from agencies)