The call for curbs, if not a complete ban, on flights from South Africa seems to be rising, with States expressing concern over tracking international passengers as the highly-virulent Omicron variant of Covid-19 gets reported from several countries.

Even as the Karnataka government repeated its call to the Centre to bar entry of visitors from Omicron-affected countries, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray expressed concern over tracking international passengers who may land at airports outside the State and travel in by domestic flights, road or rail. State authorities were planning to bring this up with the Prime Minister. Earlier, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had called for a ban on flights from the affected countries.

Fresh advisory soon

The World Health Organization (WHO) does not recommend a travel ban, but its latest technical paper said that the overall global risk related to Omicron was “very high”.

Administrators said their concern on international travel stemmed from details still emerging on Omicron and whether Covid-19 vaccines and treatments like monoclonal antibodies would be effective against it. A Union Health Ministry source said the Government was reviewing the guidelines and a fresh advisory can be expected any time.

Several countries, including Japan, Israel, and Singapore, have brought in complete or measured curbs on inbound travel from Omicron-affected counties. India, though, has stopped short of doing so. Late on Sunday, the Centre further tightened travel guidelines, effective December 1. International travellers are now required to have 14-day travel details and upload a negative RT-PCR test report. India was planning to open up international travel from December 15.

Epidemiologist Raman Gangakhedkar, formerly with the Indian Council of Medical Research, told BusinessLine that the pandemic had shown that the world was but a global village. The need is to have stringent surveillance, testing and genome sequencing strategies in place and to manage every Covid-19-positive traveller as a potential Omicron case.