Omicron variant scare: Lesson learnt hard, Here’s how states are preparing
New Delhi, Nov 30: Amid the emergence of a fresh COVID-19 strain 'Omicron' in South Africa, several states in India are working on a war footing to control a new wave of Corona in advance.
Omicron is the fifth WHO-designated variant of concern first identified in South Africa. The other four are Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta. The WHO has said it is "not yet clear" if the newly-detected variant is more transmissible or causes more severe disease, but authorities across states in India ramped up efforts to deal with the evolving situation.
Earlier on November 27, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a two-hour-long meeting to discuss the Covid-19 situation, especially Omicron, and the vaccination drive in the country.
Here's a look at how different states are preparing to tackle Omicron strain:
The Delhi Health Department has designated Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital as the dedicated facility to treat patients testing positive for the new COVID-19 variant Omicron. The hospital has been asked to earmark wards for isolating and treating such patients.
The department also said that no patient with the new variant will be denied admission to hospitals on any ground.
Earlier, authorities in the national capital ordered RT-PCR testing for all people arriving from 'high-risk' countries, genome sequencing of the positive cases and mandatory isolation.
In addition, the Chief Secretary, Police Commissioner, and other senior officers of the national capital have been directed by Lieutenant Governor, Anil Baijal, to ensure strict adherence to all necessary protocols.
The Chhattisgarh government ordered the setting up of help desks at three airports in the state for effective screening of passengers flying in from abroad in view of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, officials said.
The state health department, in a letter to all district collectors, also directed that fresh guidelines for international travelers issued by the Union Health Ministry for tackling the new COVID variant must be followed strictly, a public relations department official said.
The fresh guidelines stressed on effective surveillance and screening of passengers coming to India from 'at risk' countries where the new variant was found, the letter informed.
"The state government has directed the collectors concerned to set up help desks at the three airports, namely Raipur, Bilaspur and Jagdalpur, to screen passengers coming from abroad. The help desk will also check COVID-19 test report, vaccination status, quarantine details on arrival in India and symptoms of the infection," the official said. "
All districts have been asked to coordinate with the state surveillance centre and track international travelers.
Those who have failed to complete 7-day quarantine after arrival in India would be asked to go under quarantine and an RT-PCR test will be conducted on the 8th day.
In case the test is positive, the person's sample will be sent for WGS (whole genome sequencing) test," the official informed.
International passengers from high-risk nations will have to undergo 14 days quarantine when they reach the state, Kerala Health Minister Veena George said on Monday.
George said those passengers found positive will be shifted to a treatment centre, set up by the state government on the directions of the union government.
"The passengers from the high-risk nations should undergo home quarantine for seven days. On the eighth day they should test again. If they are found negative, they need to remain under quarantine for seven more days," she told the media.
The minister said those found positive would be shifted the treatment centre and separate wards would be set up for them on the union government's direction.
The minister said details of the passengers arriving will be collected from the airport and handed over to the departments concerned to ensure home quarantine and contact tracing.
Deputy Chief Minister O P Soni ordered strict monitoring of passengers landing at state airports from abroad. The state Health Department has also decided to enhance the Covid testing, surveillance and genome sequencing facilities in the state, said officials here.
Soni asked health officials to ensure strict monitoring of overseas passengers, especially coming from South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel, an official release said. The countries designated as "at-risk" include European countries, the UK, South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel.
Uttarakhand government has emphasized intensifying testing and containment measures along with directing local administrations to ensure appropriate behavior in public places.
The Karnataka government has directed officials to intensify screening of international passengers at the airports. Along with this, it has made RT-PCR tests mandatory for visitors from Maharashtra and Kerala.
Mumbai mayor Kishori Pednekar said that every passenger coming to Mumbai would be quarantined on arrival and their samples would be sent for genome sequencing. Furthermore, all international passengers coming to the state would be governed according to the Union government's directions.
As per a letter issued by the Union Health Ministry, passengers from countries categorized as 'at risk' by the Union Health Ministry will have to undergo COVID-19 tests upon arrival in Gujarat if they are not fully vaccinated.
Precautionary measures at all four international airports have been intensified along with appointing four health department officials to monitor the situation. They will be stationed at Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai, and Tiruchirappalli airports.