The Centre asked all states and union territories on Thursday, to conduct rigorous screening and testing of all international travellers coming from or transiting through South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana, where a new Covid-19 variant of serious public health implications has been reported.
In a letter from the Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan asked additional chief secretaries or principal secretaries (Health) to ensure that samples of travelers turning positive are sent to the designated IGLS or genome sequencing laboratories promptly.
Bhushan said in the letter, the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) reported that multiple cases of a Covid-19 variant B.1.1529 have been reported in Botswana (3 cases), South Africa (6) and Hong Kong (1).
The new variant is reported to have a significantly higher number of mutations, and could have serious public health implications for the country, in view of recently relaxed visa restrictions and opening up of international travel.
He said that it is important that all international travelers travelling from and transiting through these countries, and also includes all other ‘at risk’ countries mentioned in the revised guidelines for International arrivals issued by this ministry dated November 11, 2021, and are subjected to rigorous screening and testing as per MoHFW guidelines.
The letter also requested that samples of travelers turning positive are sent to the designated IGSLS promptly as per the INSACOG guidance document issued by this ministry dated 15 July, 2021.
According to Bhushan, state surveillance officers must also establish close coordination with their designated or tagged IGSLS for expediting results of genomic analysis, so that adequate 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.
He further said that states and Union Territories adhering to the overarching TesTest-Track Treat-Vaccinate principle to ensure stringent implementation of containment measures as per MoHFW guidelines is critical, to prevent the spread of VoC/Vols and formation of clusters of cases.