The new COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529, first detected in South Africa this week, has been designated as a 'Variant of Concern' by WHO
New Delhi: After the World Health Organisation declared Omicron as a 'Variant of Concern' and warned that it poses a 'very high risk', India has increased screening of passengers arriving from other countries.
The Union Health Ministry on Sunday revised guidelines for international arrivals in India which will be effective from December 1. The guidelines require passengers to submit the self-declaration form on the online Air Suvidha Portal before the scheduled travel and to submit the last 14 days travel details.
The guidelines also mandated the uploading of negative RT-PCR test reports on the Air Suvidha portal before the journey. The test should have been conducted within 72 hours prior to undertaking the journey.
Meanwhile, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan on Tuesday held a review meeting with states and UTs and advised them to ramp up testing for early identification and management of cases.
While underlining that the new variant doesn't escape RT-PCR and RAT tests, Bhushan asked states and UTs to ensure adequate infrastructure and supervised home isolation.
According to government officials, no case of the new Omicron variant of coronavirus has been detected in India yet.
Some states have made quarantine mandatory for international passengers, while many other states have started close monitoring of all those arriving from the countries which have already reported the cases of the new Covid variant.
Here's a list of states which have mandated quarantine for international passengers:
The Telangana government on Monday set up a cabinet sub-committee to tackle the situation that may arise due to Omicron.
The four-member committee, headed by State Health Minister T Harish Rao, will recommend to the state government the measures needed to tackle the current pandemic situation and also to expedite the COVID-19 vaccination.
The Andhra Pradesh Government will focus on arrival of international travellers to curtail the spread of Covid-19 variant Omicron.
The state govt announced that it has set up help desks at international airports at Hyderabad, Chennai, Bengaluru among others to keep a tab on international travellers, especially those coming from South Africa and its neighbouring countries.
These desks will check for symptoms among international travellers and ascertain their Covid-19 status with the support of local officials from respective state governments. If the travellers are found to be negative, they will be allowed to proceed to their destination but will be under observation for some time. If they test positive, they will quarantined for seven days and further tests like genome sequencing will be carried out.
The health authorities have also advised people to stay put at home in case they find symptoms of Covid-19 and avoid public gatherings and maintain social distance strictly and go for Covid test.
Meanwhile, the state government is also planning to procure genome sequencing testing machines to detect the variant within the state quickly.
Director of health Dr G. Hymavathi said, “As part of our preparation to face Omicron, we are focusing on international travelers, especially from South Africa and other countries. Based on the test results, they will be allowed to proceed to their destination and will be under watch by local health officials for some time for symptoms.”
The Tamil Nadu govt has mandated a week' home quaratine for international passengers arriving from 12 countries, where the new Covid variant has been reported so far.
Passengers from these 12 countries - namely Botswana, South Africa, all the European countries, England, Hong Kong, China, Israel, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Brazil, Bangladesh and Mauritius - will be kept under a watch, Chief Secretary V Irai Anbu said in a press release, after a review meeting with top State level officers and the District Collectors on Monday.
Even if the passengers from these countries test negative they would have to go for a week's home quarantine and take another RT-PCR test on the eighth day, the press release added.
Tests to detect the different variants of Covid-19 were being carried out through the Whole Genomic Sequencing equipment at the State Public Health laboratory and so far of the 469 samples tested only 95 per cent were found to be the Delta variant.
While Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai dismissed fears in some quarters over any possible lockdown amid Covid cases in some educational institutions and the detection of the Omicron, Bengaluru has made 7-day quarantine compulsory for all international passengers.
Bengaluru Rural District Health Officer Tippeswamy, while addressing the media, said, "All international passengers who test negative for COVID-19 on arrival in Bengaluru will be put in quarantine for seven days. They will be tested again after seven days."
The city corporation has kept 598 such passengers under surveillance, he added.
The passengers who are coming from high-risk countries are also being checked for their vaccination report, RT-PCR test and Rapid antigen test reports.
"We are also conducting RT-PCR test at the airport for the passengers arriving from high-risk countries. If they are found negative, then they will be suggested to home quarantine. If the passenger tests positive, they will be sent to a designated hospital for isolation," the officer added.
"We've already directed airlines to check RT-PCR reports compulsorily and not to allow anyone to travel without the report," he added.
The southern state has made it mandatory for all the international passengers arriving from high-risk nations to undergo a 14-day quarantine.
Speaking to the media about the same, Kerala Health Minister Veena George said, "The passengers from the high-risk nations should undergo home quarantine for seven days. On the eighth day they should test again. If they are found negative, they need to remain under quarantine for seven more days."
The minister added that those found positive would be shifted to treatment centre and separate wards would be set up for them on the union government's direction.
"We have deployed more health workers at four international airports. We have been regularly conducting genomic surveillance. We are testing whether there is any new variant in the state. As of now, we have not found one. If anyone coming from the high risk countries are found positive, their samples will be sent for genomic surveillance," George added.
The Delhi government on Monday said RT-PCR tests will be conducted on all passengers arriving from six high-risk countries amid rising fears of Omicron variant.
"Seven days of home quarantine will be mandatory for those testing negative upon arrival and after seven days, the person must take another RT-PCR test and if the results are negative again, they can come out of quarantine but will have to monitor their health for the next seven days," Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal said.
"After detailed deliberations as advised by experts it was decided to continue to strictly adhere to the Test, Track, Treat strategy with special focus on surveillance, isolation of positive cases, contact tracing and strict enforcement of COVID Appropriate Behaviour," he tweeted.
Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar on Saturday announced that all the passengers coming to the city from South Africa will be quarantined. The samples of these passengers will also be sent for genome sequencing, she added.
"There is an increased risk of coronavirus in foreign countries, so those coming from outside will have to undergo genome tests," she said.
All international passengers arriving at the Lucknow airport will have to undergo RT-PCR test and eight-day home quarantine, the district administration said on Sunday.
"All the passengers arriving at the international and domestic terminals will undergo thermal scanning. All the passengers arriving at the international terminal will undergo RT-PCR test, while passengers at the domestic terminal who show symptoms will undergo RT-PCR test free of cost," read a directive issued by District Magistrate Abhishek Prakash.
The international passengers arriving in the city have also been asked to provide their names, mobile numbers, local address and last destination.
The directive read that these passengers will have to undertake eight-day home quarantine. After eight days, their RT-PCR test will be conducted again.