The South African authorities announced a new variant of COVID-19 recently, hours after this announcement, the Union Health Ministry on Thursday directed states to rigorously screen and test travellers coming from or transiting through three countries in which the variant had been confirmed — South Africa, Botswana, and Hong Kong.
Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, in a letter to all states and UTs, wrote, “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 confirmed cases of B.1.1.529 variant have been reported from Botswana, South Africa and Hong Kong.
In his letter to all states and UTs, the Union Health Secretary writes that all international travellers entering India from “at-risk” countries must be subjected to rigorous screening and testing.
As per the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), the letter goes on to add, the “contacts of these international travellers must also be closely tracked and tested”
Rajesh Bhushan also directed that the additional chief secretaries, principal secretaries and health secretaries of all states and UTs to confirm that samples of travellers turning positive for the new variant are sent to the designated INSACOG Genome Sequencing labs.