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Karnataka sticks to central guidelines, will test only 2% travellers from ‘non-risk’ countries

🔴However, all travellers from Europe and ten other countries are being subjected to RT-PCR testing at all international entry points in the state.

Written by Ralph Alex Arakal | Bengaluru |
Updated: December 2, 2021 6:36:50 pm
Karnataka will test only 2% travellers from ‘non-risk’ countries henceforth. (Reuters photo for representation)

A few days after the Karnataka government made it mandatory for all international passengers arriving at airports and seaports in the state to undergo RT-PCR testing after cases of the Omicron variant were identified in a few countries, the state government has rolled back the decision to “strictly abide by the testing protocol mandated by the Centre.”

Principal Secretary (Health and Family Welfare) T K Anil Kumar told The Indian Express that only 2 per cent of the international passengers arriving from non-risk countries will be subjected to RT-PCR testing on arrival. “Two per cent of travellers, from countries excluding those listed as ‘high-risk’ where Omicron cases have been confirmed, in each flight shall be identified by the concerned airlines for RT-PCR testing. We are strictly abiding by the guidelines issued by the Union Health Ministry,” he explained.

However, he clarified that all travellers from Europe (including the UK) and ten other countries (South Africa, Brazil, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Israel) are being subjected to RT-PCR testing at all international entry points in Karnataka, as on December 1.

Amid Omicron scare, Karnataka still awaits genome report on variant found in traveller from South Africa.

On Tuesday, Health Minister K Sudhakar had announced that RT-PCR testing on arrival would be made mandatory for all international passengers entering Karnataka. “Around 2,500 international passengers arrive in Karnataka daily and it is now mandatory for everyone to undergo RT-PCR testing,” he had said after meeting the Covid-19 technical advisory committee (TAC). Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai had also repeated the same on Wednesday morning.

Hours later, on Wednesday, an official circular issued by the Health Secretary announced “suppression of all guidelines issued on the subject (RT-PCR testing for international travellers) on and after November 28” to order that only those from high-risk countries identified by the Centre shall be subjected to mandatory RT-PCR testing.

Further, a senior government official clarified that no treatment protocol for Omicron cases was issued yet by the Centre. “We are awaiting guidelines from the Centre on this. In a meeting held a couple of days back on Omicron treatment protocol, we were told by the central team that all issues related to the new Covid-19 variant are being examined by experts,” the official clarified.

Both Omicron cases identified in Bengaluru, BBMP Chief Commissioner confirms

The Chief Commissioner of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), the municipal body governing the Karnataka capital, explained that the Omicron variant was first suspected in a 66-year-old male South African national who landed in Bengaluru on November 20. “After testing positive on arrival, his sample was sent for genome sequencing of which results confirmed today the presence of the new Omicron variant,” he said.

Gupta added that the patient was isolated in a hotel after which 24 primary contacts and 240 secondary contacts were traced. “All these contacts tested negative but are being monitored continuously,” he said. However, the patient recovered and left for Dubai on November 27 “after repeat tests confirmed he had recovered from the infection.”

At the same time, Gupta said that the second such case was detected in a 46-year-old with no travel history. The sample was collected from a 46-year-old male on November 22. On testing positive with a low CT (cycle threshold) value, the sample was sent for genome sequencing. “The patient was then admitted to a hospital where he is undergoing treatment. A total of 13 primary contacts and 205 secondary contacts were traced and tested. Of these, three primary and two secondary contacts were also confirmed to be diagnosed with the infection. All of them are now under isolation,” he explained.

The chief Commissioner said the samples of the contacts who tested positive have been sent for whole-genome sequencing (WGS). “Only WGS results can determine whether these cases have the presence of the Omicron variant or not,” Gupta said.

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