Centre warns States over new COVID variant found in South Africa; calls for strict screening of passengers

Amid the new COVID-19 variant discovered in South Africa, the Ministry of Health Affairs on Thursday directed states that international travellers coming from- South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong (part of at-risk country category) must be subjected to rigorous screening and testing in which the variant had been confirmed.

According to the communication released by the Ministry of Health Affairs, multiple cases of COVID-19 variant B.1.1529 with a significantly high number of mutations were found in Botswana, South Africa (22 cases) and Hong Kong.

“This variant is reported to have a significantly high number of mutations, and thus, has serious public health implications for India in view of the recently relaxed visa restrictions and opening up of international travel,” Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said in a letter to States.

“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)…are subjected to rigorous screening and testing, as per Ministry of Health guidelines,” Health Secretary added.

The Health Secretary further asked States to send samples of travellers turning positive to the designated IGSLs promptly as per the INSACOG Guidance Document issued by the Ministry. Also, state surveillance officers need to coordinate with the INSACOG labs and follow test-track-treat to curb the spread of the virus.

On the other hand, India in the last 24 hours reported 10,549 new Covid-19 cases. according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Total recoveries on Friday stands at 3,39,77,830 across the country. A total of 9,868 patients recovered in the last 24 hours.

New COVID-19 variant detected in South Africa:

The South African authorities earlier on Thursday, November 25, 2021, confirmed a new COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.529, been detected in South Africa. Twenty-two positive cases of the variant have been recorded in the country.

Following the detection, Prof. Adrian Puren, NICD Acting Executive Director said the authorities therein are working to understand the new variant and its potential implications could be.

“Although the data are limited, our experts are working overtime with all the established surveillance systems to understand the new variant and what the potential implications could be. Developments are occurring at a rapid pace and the public has our assurance that we will keep them up to date,” Prof. Puren said.

Hong Kong, Botswana find cases of New Covid Variant Identified in Africa:

According to reports, two new cases of the COVID-19 variant have been reported in travellers arriving in Hong Kong. Also, the Health Authorities of Botswana on Thursday said that four cases of B.1.1.529 were detected among travellers on November 22.

UK, Israel impose travel restrictions:

Due to the alarming concern over the new COVID-19 variant detected in South Africa, believed to have many mutations, UK and Israel have each imposed new travel restrictions on travellers from some southern African countries.

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