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Centre warns of new Covid variant; directs states to step up testing of international passengers

Centre warns of new Covid variant; directs states to step up testing of international passengers

The statement also noted that  it was "imperative that all international travellers travelling from and transiting through these nations are subjected to rigorous screening and testing."

South Africa has confirmed around 100 specimens as B.1.1.529, but the variant has also been found in Botswana and Hong Kong, with the Hong Kong case a traveller from South Africa South Africa has confirmed around 100 specimens as B.1.1.529, but the variant has also been found in Botswana and Hong Kong, with the Hong Kong case a traveller from South Africa

Amid concerns of new Covid-19 variants across the world, the Union Health Ministry on Thursday directed states to ensure ‘rigorous screening and testing’ of all international travellers landing in India from ‘at risk’ countries. 

In a statement, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan told principal health secretaries of all states  and UTs that "multiple cases of a COVID-19 variant 8.1.1529 have been reported in Botswana (3 cases), South Africa (6 cases) and Hong Kong (1 case)."

The statement also noted that  it was "imperative that all international travellers travelling from and transiting through these nations and including other 'at risk' nations indicated in revised guidelines for arrivals are subjected to rigorous screening and testing. Their contacts must also be tracked and tested."

The statement also took cognisance of the face that this new Covid-19 variant (B.11.529) 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."

Meanwhile, South Africa has confirmed around 100 specimens as B.1.1.529, but the variant has also been found in Botswana and Hong Kong, with the Hong Kong case a traveller from South Africa. As many as 90% of new cases in Gauteng could be B.1.1.529, scientists believe.

"Although the data are limited, our experts are working overtime with all the established surveillance systems to understand the new variant and what the potential implications could be," South Africa's National Institute for Communicable Diseases said in a statement.

South Africa has requested an urgent sitting up a World Health Organization (WHO) working group on virus evolution on Friday to discuss the new variant.

With agency inputs