New Delhi [India], November 26 (ANI): Amid rising concern about a new COVID-19 variant first detected in South Africa, the Union Health Ministry has directed states to "rigorously' screen and test people travelling from three countries--South Africa, Botswana, and Hong Kong-- where the cases of the variant have been reported.
Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, in a letter to health secretaries of all states and Union Territories, said: "lt has now been reported by National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) that multiple cases of a COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529 have been reported in Botswana (3 cases), South Africa (6 cases) and Hong 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."
"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 lnternational Arrivals issued by this Ministry dated November 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," the letter read.
Bhushan requested all states to ensure that samples of travellers turning positive are sent to the designated INSACOG Genome Sequencing Laboratories (IGSLs) promptly as per the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) Guidance Document issued by this Ministry.
He urged State Surveillance Officers to establish close coordination with their designated/tagged IGSLs for expediting results of genomic analysis, so that necessary public health measures may be undertaken by the States/UTs in case presence of Variants of Concern/Variants of lnterest is reported by the INSACOG network.
Bhushan said that it is critical for the States/UTs to adhere to the overeaching 'Test-Track-Treat-Vaccinate' principle to ensure stringent implementation of containment measures as per MoHFW guidelines, and to prevent the spread of Variants of Concern/Variants of lnterest and formation of clusters of cases. (ANI)