Tighter screening measures at airports to check new coronavirus strain
New Delhi : India has imposed tighter screening of passengers coming from South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana, where a new strain of coronavirus has been detected. The new strain has a large number of mutations and this has led to sudden surge in coronavirus cases in these places.
Writing a letter to states and union territories, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan on Thursday asked them to ensure that all positive samples must be sent to designated genome sequencing laboratories promptly.
"lt has now been reported by NCDC (National Centre for Disease Control) 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). 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 read.
"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 contacts of these international travellers must also be closely tracked and tested as per MoHFW guidelines," it said.
The new coronavirus strain has been reported with several mutations in South Africa and travellers from the nation to Hong Kong and Botswana have also been found with the same strain.
A virologist at Imperial College London, Dr Tom Peacock, had posted details of the new variant classed as B.1.1.529 on his Twitter account earlier this week, following which scientists have been weighing in on what is being considered a variant of concern though it is yet to be formally categorised in the UK.