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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

New Covid-19 variant: Centre issues advisory to screen travellers

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The National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has flagged the global presence of this new variant of concern, and the need for India to keep a strict watch.

The Union health ministry has directed states to start rigorous screening and testing of all international travellers coming from or transiting through Botswana, South Africa and Hong Kong as these countries have reported multiple cases of new coronavirus disease (Covid-19) variant 8.1.1529 that is reported to have a significantly high number of mutations.

The National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has flagged the global presence of this new variant of concern, and the need for India to keep a strict watch.

“lt has now been reported by NCDC 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,” said Union secretary for health and family welfare, Rajesh Bhushan, in a letter written to the states on Thursday.

According to the letter, the whole genome sequencing activity being coordinated in the country through the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) and NCDC, which is the nodal agency for INSACOG, aims at tracking and monitoring emergence and transmission of Covid-19 variants of concern and interest in the country.

INSACOG, which consists of 10 central laboratories and 28 regional ones, has been sequencing positive samples since January this year as part of surveillance measures taken to identify variants of concern and of interest.

Bhushan asked the states to ensure that samples of travellers turning positive are sent to designated laboratories promptly as per the INSACOG guidance document for expediting results of genomic analysis, so that necessary public health measures may be undertaken by the states and Union territories in case the presence of variants of concern and interest is reported by the INSACOG network.

The letter also asked that the contacts of these international travellers be closely tracked and tested according to health ministry guidelines.

At present, Delta and its sub-lineage continue to be the dominant variant.

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