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Explained: Change in rules for foreign travellers to India due to new Covid-19 variant

🔴 Taking note of multiple cases of a new Covid-19 variant, B.1.1529, the Health Ministry has issues guidelines to states regarding travellers coming from Botswana, South Africa & Hong Kong. What are new rules?

new Covid variant, Covid-19 variant 8.1.1529, foreign travel rules India Covid, India new foreign travel rules, rules for Botswana, South Africa , Hong Kong travellers, indian express, express explainedtravellers coming from and transiting through Botswana, South Africa, and Hong Kong. (AP photo for representation)

The Health Ministry Thursday issued direction to states that international travellers coming from and transiting through Botswana, South Africa, and Hong Kong must be subjected to rigorous screening and testing, due to multiple cases of Covid-19 variant B.1.1.529 reported in these countries.

Why has the advisory been issued?

Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said India’s National Centre for Disease Control has reported to the health ministry that multiple cases of Covid-19 variant B.1.1529 have been reported in Botswana (4 cases), South Africa (22 cases), and, Hong Kong (2 cases).

Bhushan said that the variant is reported to have a significantly high number of mutations, and thus, has serious public health implications for India in view of the recently relaxed visa restrictions and opening up of international travel.

What does the direction mean for international travellers arriving from these countries?

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These countries are part of the ‘at risk’ country category of international travellers coming to India. They will be subjected to rigorous screening and testing, and all their contacts will also be closely tracked and tested as per the health ministry guidelines for this category.

How will India track the new variant?

The states will now have to send the samples of travellers turning positive to designated labs of Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genetics Consortium (INSACOG), that tracks and monitors emergence and transmission of Covid-19 variants of concerns and variants of interests in India. Also, state surveillance officers will have to coordinate with the INSACOG labs and undertake test-track-treat to prevent the spread of the variant and formation of cluster of cases.

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What are the official details given so far by South Africa?

On Thursday, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), the national public health institute of South Africa, said that a new COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.529, has been detected in South Africa, with 22 positive cases recorded following genomic sequencing.

Prof Adrian Puren, NICD Acting Executive Director, said : “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. Developments are occurring at a rapid pace and the public has our assurance that we will keep them up to date.”

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Official details given so far by Hong Kong

On Thursday, the government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region said that the cluster of two cases in the Regal Airport Hotel had “highly similar genetic sequences and the viruses belonged to a newly emerged lineage, B.1.1.529”. “The sequences are similar to those found in South Africa and Botswana, supporting that case 12388 arriving in Hong Kong from South Africa was the index case. Scientific information on the public health significance about this lineage is lacking at the moment,” the official press release said.

Official details given so far by Botswana

The presidential Covid-19 task force of Botswana Thursday said that four cases of B.1.1.529 were reported on Monday, detected among travellers. It also said that the four travellers had been fully vaccinated. “Initial investigations on the virus have established that the new variant has a high number of mutations as compared to the locally predomination Delta variant. What this means is still unclear and under investigation. New variants have the potential to affect severity of disease…At this moment, real world impact of the variant has not been established,” Dr K Masupu, Coordinator, Presidential Covid-19 task force, said.

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First published on: 25-11-2021 at 09:21:44 pm
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