Review plans on easing travel curbs: PM Modi amid Omicron fears

The Africa Centres for Disease Control has issued a statement strongly discouraging imposition of travel ban for people originating from countries that have reported Omicron varian

Review plans on easing travel curbs: PM Modi amid Omicron fears

A swab sample being collected at Ranchi railway station. PTI

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 27

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday advised review of plans to reopen international travel amid concerns around Omicron “variant of concern” even as the WHO asked countries to enhance surveillance and sequencing, expand vaccination and reinforce physical distancing and masks.

“We need to be proactive in light of the new variant,” the PM said at a two-hour review meeting with top officials. He flagged the need to monitor all international arrivals, test incoming passengers with focus on “at-risk” countries and review plans for easing of international travel restrictions.

Omicron, a Super-spreader

  • On Nov 25, Omicron found in 77 samples in South Africa, in four samples in Botswana and one in Hong Kong
  • Sudden spike seen in cases in Gauteng (SA) with variant displaying multiple mutations across the virus genome

Be proactive

We’ve to be proactive in view of the new variant. —Narendra Modi, PM

Advising improvement in the second vaccine dose coverage, intensive containment and active surveillance in high-burden areas and active genome-sequencing, the PM asked people to be more cautious by way of masking and social distancing. He also asked officials to review paediatric facilities, stocks of essential medicines and ventilators and medical oxygen availability in preparation for any potential future wave. The meeting came as India witnessed a low of 8,318 new Covid cases with vaccination expanding.

The Africa Centres for Disease Control (CDC) has issued a statement strongly discouraging the imposition of travel ban for people originating from countries that have reported Omicron variant.

“Imposing ban on travellers from countries where a new variant is reported hasn’t yielded a meaningful outcome. Rather Covid safety protocol should be encouraged,” Africa CDC said.

On the new variant (B.1.1529), it said some of the mutations it carried had been detected in previous variants Alpha and Delta and had been associated with increased transmissibility and immune evasion.

“Many other identified mutations are not yet well characterised and have not been identified in other currently circulating variants. More investigations are underway to determine the possible impact of these mutations on the capacity of the virus to transmit more efficiently, impact vaccine effectiveness and evade immune response and cause more severe or milder disease,” said the CDC.

In view of the surge in cases elsewhere globally and detection of Omicron, the WHO appealed to countries in the South-East Asia Region (SEARO) to scale up surveillance, strengthen public health and social measures and enhance vaccination coverage.

As of today, 31 per cent of the region’s population had been fully vaccinated, 21 per cent partially while nearly 48 per cent (about 100 crore people) were yet to receive even a single dose of vaccine, said Poonam Khetarpal, Regional Director, World Health Organisation, SEARO.

Khetarpal said unvaccinated people continued to be at risk of contracting severe disease and spreading it further.

Poor show

31% of South-East Asia population fully vaccinated
21%of the region’s population partially vaccinated
100 crore people yet to get even a single dose

Masks must: WHO

The WHO has advised strict enforcement of distancing, masks, hygiene, containment, surveillance and sequencing

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