At least three states including Delhi on Monday announced precautions against the new strain of the novel coronavirus detected in the United Kingdom and some other countries, and to prevent the unchecked transmission of the infection during Christmas and New Year celebrations.
Maharashtra declared a night curfew from 11 pm to 6 am in cities across the state from Tuesday until January 5. The decision is intended to clamp down on large gatherings for Christmas and New Year, which could lead to a faster spread of the infection, sources said.
The state government has also decided that all international travellers coming from Europe and Middle Eastern countries will be put in mandatory institutional quarantine, while those flying in from other countries will be quarantined at home.
The Delhi government will test all passengers on the three flights from the UK that are scheduled to land in the capital on Tuesday.
Before the Centre announced the suspension of flights to and from the UK, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal posted on Twitter Monday: “New mutation of coronavirus has emerged in the UK, which is a super-spreader. I urge the central govt to ban all flights from the UK immediately.”
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia told The Indian Express: “Over the past two weeks, 4,200 people have come to Delhi from the UK. A list of these people, along with their contact numbers has been prepared. District-level teams will be contacting each person and tests will be done. Efforts will be made to contain the possible spread of the mutated virus. But tomorrow, 400 more people will land via the last flights into the country from the UK.”
Sources in the Delhi Health Department said samples that test positive would be preserved for 14 days to allow for genome sequencing.
The Karnataka government said on Monday that people coming from the UK, Denmark, and the Netherlands by direct or transit flights must be quarantined for 14 days.
Karnataka has also sought passenger manifests for all UK arrivals since December 7 to carry out screening for the coronavirus.
“Those who have come from the UK in the last 14 days must get RT-PCR tests done and be vigilant. Those who are positive must get genetic analysis done at the NIMHANS lab to understand the strain of the virus,” Karnataka Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar said Monday.
“In the past few days we have learnt that in some European countries – UK, Netherlands and Denmark – there is a new mutation of the virus which has been detected. What we know is that it is more contagious than the strain seen earlier in the country,” Sudhakar said.
Maharashtra’s decision to impose night curfew comes just a day after Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said that he was not in favour of night curfews or lockdowns as the situation was now under control. But he had a rethink after a meeting with top officials to take stock of the pandemic situation in the state.
“Due to the new variant of Covid-19 [in the UK and other countries], we are taking extra precautions and will have to be more vigilant for the next 15 days,” the Chief Minister said. He said since the extent of the danger from the new strain would be known in the next few days, “high alert should be maintained across the state from today”.
Sources said the night curfew will not impact the supply of essential commodities such as milk and vegetables, and was aimed at stopping large gatherings in hotels, restaurants, and pubs for New Year celebrations.
Hotels and restaurants, who have been dealt a body blow by the pandemic and who were hoping for some year-end business, expressed disappointment with the government’s decision.
Maharashtra has so far registered 18.99 lakh Covid-19 cases and 48,801 deaths from the disease. New detections have, however, declined significantly over the last few days; the state registered only 2,834 new cases on Tuesday. It has 59,469 active cases at present.
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