Science

‘INSACOG tracking new S African Covid variant; no presence in India yet’

Monika Yadav | | Updated on: Nov 26, 2021
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WHO is yet to label the new variant as a "variant of concern" or a "variant of interest."

Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) is tracking the new variant B.1.1.529 though it has not yet been spotted in the country.

Samiran Panda, senior scientist at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), told BusinessLIne : “Policy-makers will decide on the travel policy depending upon our epidemiology. The UK made the decision depending upon theirs.”

The United Kingdom has imposed a ban on travel from some African countries. A host of countries including Italy, Germany, France and Israel have since imposed similar restrictions in view of the new variant.

The World Health Organization will assess the new variant to see if it should be labelled a “Variant of Concern” or a “Variant of Interest”.

WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan tweeted: “The technical advisory group on #SARSCoV2 virus evolution will meet today to review what’s known and plan further studies... we need to focus on strengthening vaccination coverage and public health measures...”

‘Travel ban, no solution’

A Health Ministry source said India was on “red alert”. The Centre has called for rigorous screening and testing of international travellers from “at risk” countries including South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong, as this variant with multiple mutations had “serious public health implications” for India, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan had said in a letter to States on Thursday. The WHO has, however, cautioned against travel bans, even as experts point out that the variant could have originated elsewhere.

A Delhi Health Ministry official said banning travel is not a panacea as it can only delay the spread but won’t work for the long haul.

Mrinal Sircar, Director and Head (Pulmonology & Critical Care) at Fortis Hospital (Noida), said that surveillance of travellers had increased in terms of testing and examining of samples.

But Alapana Razdan, Vice-President at Genestrings Diagnostics, said that rules needed to be amended for international passengers entering India.

India on red alert. The Centre has called for rigorous screening of travellers from “at risk” countries including South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong, as this variant with multiple mutations has “serious public health implications”

Published on November 26, 2021

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