No Omicron cases in India: Health Minister tells Parliament
Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya Tuesday informed the Rajya Sabha that no cases of the Omicron variant of coronavirus have been detected in India. Mandaviya assured that the government has learned a lot during the pandemic and is capable of managing any situation. He highlighted the need for strict compliance with the government advisory on Omicron.
Why does it matter?
- There is widespread fear that the Omicron variant may be more transmissible and dangerous.
- The variant was first reported by South Africa and has been detected in at least 16 countries.
- Concerns have been raised in India as it gears up to resume international flights starting December 15.
- Many cautioned lifting of travel restrictions might cause the variant to spread faster.
Screening, genome sequencing ramped-up: Mandaviya
Mandaviya said the government is expediting the checking of suspicious cases and conducting genome sequencing of those cases. Earlier in the day, a man who returned from South Africa tested positive for COVID-19 in Chandigarh. His sample has been sent for genome sequencing. The government is also speeding up genomic analysis of positive samples of international travelers, a senior official said Monday.
Situation being closely monitored: Aviation Minister
Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia Monday said in the Rajya Sabha that the ministry is closely monitoring the situation in consultation with other ministries regarding "any further decision" on resuming scheduled international passenger services.
Home Ministry extends COVID-19 curbs
Meanwhile, Union Home Ministry Tuesday extended the validity of the COVID-19 curbs till December 31. The ministry also issued an order advising all states to adhere to the advisory issued by Union Health Ministry on November 25. Furthermore, it has asked all states to remain alert against a possible outbreak of the Omicron variant.
States asked to increase testing
Separately, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan held a review meeting with states/UTs, asking them to ramp up COVID-19 testing. States/UTs were also asked to keep a strict vigil on international returnees at various airports, ports, and land border crossings.
Centre revises SOP for international arrivals
The Centre Monday revised the guidelines for international arrivals in the wake of Omicron. Effective December 1, the guidelines seek travelers to submit a 14-day travel history and upload negative RT-PCR test reports on the Air Suvidha portal before the journey. Travelers from "at-risk" countries have to undergo RT-PCR tests on arrival and quarantine for 14 days.
Quarantine rules for international travelers
Under the new guidelines, on the eighth day of the 14-day quarantine, a COVID-19 test would be repeated. People who test negative will be monitored for the next seven days. People who test positive would be admitted to separate isolation facilities.