Omicron threat: Several Indian states announce precautionary measures, intensify passenger screening

Mumbai airport
An airport staff member pushes trollies at the entrance of Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, after the government allowed domestic flight services to resume, during an extended nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19, in Mumbai, May 25, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas

As concerns grow over the new coronavirus variant 'Omicron', several Indian states moved quickly to take precautionary measures and remain vigilant.

The Omicron variant, which scientists say has a high number of mutations, was first detected in South Africa last week A World Health Organisation(WHO) panel has classified it as a highly transmissible variant of concern, the same category that includes the Delta variant.

According to the central guidelines, all passengers arriving in the country from abroad should undergo an RT-PCR test within 72 hours and upload it in.

Two South African returnees to Bengaluru, meanwhile, tested positive for COVID-19 and their samples sent for further tests to determine the exact variant, said a Karnataka state official.

Here are the precautionary measures announced by various states:

Kerala: The Kerala government on Saturday announced a strict quarantine of seven days for those arriving from abroad.

Health Minister Veena George said the state has taken all precautionary steps as per the guidelines of the Centre and surveillance would be strengthened at all airports.

Karnataka: With new clusters emerging in Karnataka and threats of the new variant looming large, the state government on Saturday announced certain precautionary measures and said it has sought the Centre's permission to administer a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

Intensifying screening of international passengers at airports, heightened border checks, asking educational institutions to postpone their public events were among the measures announced by the government, which also hinted that based on the COVID cases and scenario in the coming days, it may take certain stringent measures.

RT-PCR negative report is mandatory for those travelling to state from Kerala and Maharashtra and authorities deployed at check points have to compulsorily check it.

Students who have travelled to the state from Kerala 16 days ago have to undergo RT-PCR test, despite them possessing negative test reports and those staying in hostels will also have to undergo tests once again after seven days, despite having negative certificates now.

Guidelines given to airports that those travelling from countries at 'high risk' category to the state have to undergo a test despite having a COVID test report, and they will be allowed outside the airport only after testing negative, said Health Minister K Sudhakar.

Even after testing negative they will have to remain at home and after seven days they will have to undergo a test once again, and after getting a negative report, one can go out, he added.

Gujarat: Passengers from countries categorized as `at risk' by the Union Health Ministry will have to undergo COVID-19 tests upon arrival if they are not fully vaccinated, an official said in Ahmedabad.

"As per the letter issued to us on Friday by the Union Health Ministry, RT-PCR test is mandatory for all incoming travellers who do not have vaccination certificate," said state Additional Chief Secretary (Health) Manoj Aggarwal.

Those who are fully vaccinated will also be screened at the airport and allowed to proceed if they do not show any symptoms of the infection, he said.

Tamil Nadu: The state has intensified precautionary measures at all the four international airports and appointed four health department officials to personally monitor the situation, State Minister Ma Subramanian said.

These officials would be stationed at Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai and Tiruchirappalli airports.

Madhya Pradesh: Minister for Medical Education Vishvas Sarang said genome sequencing is being carried out in a speedy manner. He said although nobody has been found infected with Omicron variant in the state so far, the government is keeping an eye on the situation.

Maharashtra: Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar said all passengers coming to the city from South Africa will be quarantined.

Similar restrictions might come into force for the passengers coming from other countries affected by the new variant of the virus, she said.

The Maharashtra government on Saturday announced penalties for not following COVID Appropriate Behaviour (CAB).

All travellers from foreign countries shall be governed by directions of the Union government while domestic travellers arriving in the state shall either be fully vaccinated or carry a negative RT-PCR test report valid for 72 hours, said an official notification.

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