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Travel restrictions, rigorous surveillance: 10 things to know about the Omicron COVID-19 variant 

Travel restrictions, rigorous surveillance: 10 things to know about the Omicron COVID-19 variant 

Union Health Ministry has revised guidelines for international arrivals in India to be effective from Dec 1, and mandates submitting 14 days travel details, uploading negative RT-PCR test report on Air Suvidha portal before the journey.

The Centre has asked all states and UTs to focus on intensive containment, active surveillance, enhanced testing, hotspots monitoring, increased vaccination coverage, and augmentation of health infrastructure. The Centre has asked all states and UTs to focus on intensive containment, active surveillance, enhanced testing, hotspots monitoring, increased vaccination coverage, and augmentation of health infrastructure.

India is putting travel restrictions in place in response to a new coronavirus variant originating in South Africa. Union Health Ministry has revised guidelines for international arrivals in India to be effective from Dec 1, and mandates submitting 14 days travel details, uploading negative RT-PCR test report on Air Suvidha portal before the journey.

Here's all you need to know about the new variant, Omicron:

The World Health Organization announced on Friday that it deems the strain, B.1.1.529, a variant of concern, and has named it Omicron. It's the first new variant of concern since Delta.

The Centre has asked all states and UTs to focus on intensive containment, active surveillance, enhanced testing, hotspots monitoring, increased vaccination coverage, and augmentation of health infrastructure.

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan stressed on rigorous surveillance of international passengers, ensuring prompt dispatch of samples for genome sequencing and strict enforcement of Covid-appropriate behaviour to effectively manage this Variant of Concern (VoC).

The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia INSACOG is closely tracking the new variant, and its presence has not been detected yet in the country, officials have said.

The Omicron variant has been detected at faster rates than previous surges have been, suggesting it may have advantages over other variants.

The WHO says that the detection of the variant in South Africa coincided with a steep increase in cases there and that its prevalence is increasing in almost all provinces of the country.

Scientists say that the variant has more than 30 mutations with worrying characteristics that are known to boost transmissibility and that can help the virus infect cells more efficiently.

There are hints in the virus' genes that vaccines could be less effective against it and that there could be a higher risk of reinfections. Omicron's mutations are already known to help the virus evade the immune system — to resist antibodies and avoid detection by some of the body's front-line defenders. Still, scientists don't have enough data to say for sure.

Researchers in South Africa and elsewhere are working to understand whether it could evade immunity; they're taking blood from people who have been vaccinated and then seeing how well the antibodies in their blood work against the Omicron variant.

Though the variant's existence was first reported by South Africa, it has also been found in Belgium, Botswana, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, and the United Kingdom, meaning the variant has already spread — though how far is unclear, as new cases continue cropping up around the world.