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Omicron: Do not panic & trust social media rumours on a new variant

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Omicron: Do not panic & trust social media rumours on a new variant

omicron, international travel, travel ban, covid-19, covid variant, coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2As the news of the new variant broke, social media and WhatsApp forwards had gone bizarre. There are thousands of circulations with horrific video edits and all sorts of fake stories to scare the people. Right now, what people need to do is to stop trusting such posts and stop circularising them further.

Cases of the new variant of Omicron detected in some countries and there is no need to panic and instead, everyone should take a complete dose of vaccination.

The structural changes detected in the virus may not necessarily give rise to a functional change of concern. It may not necessarily be lethal or result in a severe form of the disease. There is no such data, as of now. People need to wait and see. The structural changes or mutations found in SARS-CoV-2 through genome sequencing in the lab are indicative but do not necessarily mean the new variant is highly transmissible. However, active vigilance and preventive measures are important. People should not take the COVID relaxation norms for granted.

Using masks, sensitization, social distancing, and keeping hygiene are the compulsory norms of keeping safe. We need to ramp up vaccination immediately, if any of your family members have yet not taken vaccinations, should be asked to take them as early as possible. If a larger proportion of people will be covered with two doses of vaccine, that will be a great public health move.

Besides, there is a need to strengthen genome sequencing among international travellers. If not urgent or needed avoid travelling abroad. Follow self-lockdown rules as much as possible. Many countries have already imposed travel restrictions on flights from southern Africa amid fears the omicron variant has the potential to be more resistant to the protection offered by available vaccines. However, experts have said such restrictions may be too late to stop omicron from circulating globally. Countries are on high alert even as the coronavirus pandemic has claimed the lives of more than 5 million people around the world.

PM Modi asked officials to review the plans to ease international travel restrictions. The Prime Minister highlighted the need to monitor and test international arrivals, with a specific focus on countries identified as ‘at at risk’. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot urged the government to take prompt action and underlined the need to ensure that people are fully vaccinated. The centre should take prompt action in view of the new variant of coronavirus, Omicron. Many people across the country have not taken the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. A booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine should also be administered.

Kerala Health Minister Veena George said that the state will monitor the arrival of passengers at airports. India is set to resume scheduled international flights from December 15 after 20 months of coronavirus-induced suspension. The civil aviation ministry’s decision came at a time when several countries have restricted air travel from southern Africa.

The Karnataka government is also focusing on testing passengers with travel history to South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal urged PM Modi to stop international flights. Jharkhand, State Health Minister Banna Gupta also appealed to the government to ban international travel. Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar told the media 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 coronavirus.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has convened a high-level meeting at his residence at noon on Sunday over the new coronavirus variant. In Gujarat, Passengers from countries categorised as ‘at at risk’ by the Union Health Ministry will have to undergo COVID-19 tests upon arrival if they are not fully vaccinated. Tamil Nadu has intensified precautionary measures at all the four international airports and appointed four health department officials to personally monitor the situation. These officials would be stationed at Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai and Tiruchirapalli airports. Goa is focusing on medical preparedness to tackle the new threat. Two wards in the Goa health facility will be dedicated to the management of cases amid the rising concern over new variants of coronavirus.

The United Kingdom, Germany, Mauritius, and Bangladesh on Saturday suspended travel from South Africa, joining a growing list of countries banning travel to and from the country amid concerns over the new coronavirus variant, first detected in Botswana. The US, EU, Canada, Saudi Arabia had announced a travel ban from southern Africa on Friday. Saudi Arabia has suspended flights from seven southern African countries.

The United States will restrict travel from South Africa and seven other countries in the region from Monday onwards. US President Joe Biden clarified that this means “no travel” to or from the designated countries except for returning US citizens and permanent residents who test negative. The European Union has imposed a ban on travel from southern Africa. The EU presidency, currently held by Slovenia, also called on all member states “to test and quarantine all incoming passengers”.

Canada announced it is banning the entry of foreign nationals with travel history to southern Africa in the last 14 days. Testing will be mandatory for all Canadians who have travelled to South Africa in the last 14 days. They will be tested on arrival and must quarantine until they get a negative test result.

Saudi Arabia has also suspended flights from seven southern African countries – South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Botswana. The UK had applied travel restrictions on arrivals from South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia on Friday. On Saturday, four more countries– Angola, Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia– have been added to the “red list” after two cases of the Omicron variant were found in the UK.

Meanwhile, Australia imposed new restrictions on people who have been to any of nine southern African countries listed by authorities. Effective immediately, the government has banned non-citizens from said countries from entering Australia and will require 14-day quarantine for Australian citizens and their dependents returning from any of the eight countries, said Health Minister Greg Hunt. Brazil will also shut its borders to travellers from six southern African countries– South Africa, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe—according to the chief of staff to President Bolsonaro. Nepal has also announced a seven-day mandatory quarantine for all air-bound passengers travelling to the country from or via South Africa.


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