India Govt Calls For Tighter Screening For New Strain

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New Delhi: India called for rigorous screening and testing of flyers coming from South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana where a new variant of COVID-19 has been found with multiple mutations that have led to a surge in infections.

In a letter to states and union territories, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan asked them to ensure that samples of travellers turning positive are sent to designated genome sequencing laboratories promptly. The contacts of these international travellers must also be closely tracked and tested as per Health Ministry guidelines, he said.

“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.

“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.

“It 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 November 11, 2021, are subjected to rigorous screening and testing, as per MoHFW Guidelines,” he said.

The contacts of these international travellers must also be closely tracked and tested as per MoHFW guidelines.

“You are also requested to ensure that samples of travellers turning positive are sent to the designated IGSLS promptly as per the INSACOG Guidance Document issued by this Ministry dated 15 July, 2021,” the letter said.

Bhushan said state surveillance officers must also 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 and union territories in case presence of variant of concern or variant of interest is reported by the INSACOG network.

“It is critical for the states and UTs to adhere to the overarching Test-Track Treat-Vaccinate principle to ensure stringent implementation of containment measures as per MoHFW guidelines, and to prevent the spread of VoC/Vols and formation of clusters of cases,” he said.

The new variant of Covid-19, feared to have a high amount of spike mutations unseen before, has been detected in South Africa, with authorities there confirming 22 positive cases associated with it on Thursday.

 

 

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