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WHO meets to review new contagious Covid variant, India alerts states

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Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 25

Hours after the World Health Organisation met on Thursday to review a new coronavirus variant circulating in South Africa and Botswana, the health ministry alerted all states to conduct rigorous screening of all incoming passengers from the affected countries.

In a letter to all states chief secretaries and principal secretaries, health, the health ministry said India’s National Centre for Disease Control had reported that multiple cases of Covid-19 variant B.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. lt is therefore imperative that all international travellers from and transiting through these countries, (they are part of the “at risk” category of international travellers coming to India) and including all other at risk countries indicated in the revised guidelines for international arrivals are subjected to rigorous screening and testing,” union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan wrote to states.

He said the contacts of these international travellers must also be closely tracked and tested as per ministry guidelines.

“You are also requested to ensure that samples of travellers turning positive are sent to the designated labs as per the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG) Guidance Document. State surveillance officers must also establish close coordination with their designated labs to expedite results of genomic analysis so that necessary public health measures may be undertaken by the states and UTs in case the new variant is reported,” the letter said asking states to continue adhere to the ‘Test-Track-Treat-Vaccinate’ principle to ensure stringent implementation of containment measures against Covid 19.

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