Kuwait City, 8th December 2021:
India announces New Rules for International arrivals amid Omicron fear, iiQ8 News
In view of rising global concerns over the new COVID-19 variant Omicron, India announced new rules for arriving international passengers, especially from “at-risk” countries.
NEW DELHI, Dec. 8 : Last month, India announced that it would resume scheduled international flights from Dec. 15, an indication that the country was opening up fully amid COVID-19. However, less than a week after the announcement, the government said the date of resumption was being kept “in abeyance” and a new date would be notified in due course.
The change in the decision was made in wake of the rising concerns over the new COVID-19 variant Omicron (B.1.1.529).
“In view of the evolving global scenario with the emergence of new variants of concern, the situation is being watched closely in consultation with all stakeholders and an appropriate decision indicating the effective date of resumption of scheduled commercial international passenger services shall be notified in due course,” reads the circular issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
INDIA’S OMICRON CASE TALLY
India on Monday reported two more cases of Omicron, taking the country’s case tally of the new variant to 23. Both new cases, reported from Mumbai, have history of international travel and are fully vaccinated.
The first cases of Omicron in India were detected last week in the southern state of Karnataka, followed by one in Jamnagar (Gujarat) and another in Maharashtra. Later on Sunday, seven cases were reported in Maharashtra’s Pune district, of which six belonged to a same family.
In Jaipur, nine cases of the Omicron variant were confirmed, all of whom had attended a same wedding. In Delhi, a man in his 30s was found to be infected with the new variant and admitted to the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital.
Experts say that the new variant presents some features which are of concern because of the very high number of spike protein mutations, which is likely to be much more infectious than the previous variants.
“It may also be able to partially at least evade the immunity that has been produced by vaccines which have been predominantly focused on the spike protein,” said K. Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI).
Reddy, however, said one feature which may be somewhat reassuring is so far reports coming from South Africa and Europe suggest that it is a very mild form of the virus.
INDIA ANNOUNCES NEW RULES
In view of rising global concerns over Omicron, last week India announced new rules for arriving international passengers, especially from “at-risk” countries. According to the new rule, all international travellers arriving in India will have to mandatorily fill up a self-declaration form and upload their negative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test reports. The availability of these negative RT-PCR test reports must be ensured by the airlines, before allowing the travellers to board the aircraft.
For travellers coming from countries “at risk”, the passengers will have to mandatorily undergo RT-PCR testing on arrival at airport. If tested negative, they still have to undergo home quarantine for seven days and get re-tested on the eighth day. The passengers also need to monitor their health for the next seven days, according to the new guidelines.
If tested positive in the initial test or on repeat testing, the passenger will be admitted at a separate isolation facility while their sample will be sent for genomic testing.
The RT-PCR testing on airports like New Delhi has resulted in overcrowding and chaos. Images from the Delhi airport since Dec. 1 have given an impression of a crowded railway station, with hordes of masked passengers waiting to undergo COVID-19 tests and get results for up to eight hours.
To cut down on waiting time, many have been taking the more expensive rapid PCR tests, which come at a hefty 46 U.S. dollars. The normal RT-PCR test costs 6 U.S. dollars.
CALL FOR INCREASING VACCINATION
- Experts in India have been urging the government to increase the vaccination drive and stress on wearing masks.
- World Health Organization (WHO) Chief Scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said that compared to the delta variant of COVID-19, reinfections in the Omicron variant, 90 days after the virus first strike, are three times more common.
- In an interview with a local TV news channel, Swaminathan said children and those unvaccinated may get infected if cases increase.
- “Not many vaccines available for children and very few countries vaccinating children. Children and the unvaccinated may get more infections when cases arise. We are still waiting for data to conclude Omicron variant’s impact on children,” she was quoted as having said by CNBC-TV18.
- “We need to take a comprehensive and science-based approach to vaccination. It is the same virus we are dealing with and hence measures to protect it will be the same.
If we need a variant vaccine, it will depend on how much immune escape the variant has.”
- Health economist Rijo M. John is worried about India’s stumbling vaccination drive which according to him was a major challenge for the country.
- “I am worried about people above 45 years of age. Only 58 percent of the population above 45 has been given two doses of the vaccine,” John said. “If the Omicron variant turns out to be more problematic or leads to more serious diseases, then this is the population that needs to be highly worried.”
At present people above 18 are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination in India.
#India’s federal health minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Monday said that 85 percent of the country’s eligible adult population has received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
India’s countrywide COVID-19 vaccination drive started on January 16 for people above 18.
Information provided by the government says until Tuesday morning over 1.28 billion vaccinations have been carried out.
COVID-19 THIRD WAVE POSSIBILITY
Manindra Agarwal, an Indian scientist involved in the mathematical projection of the trajectory of COVID-19, said that the third wave of the ongoing pandemic in India could hit the peak by February with cases likely to be reaching up to 100,000-150,000 a day in the country. However, Agarwal said it will be milder than the second wave.
He said in the new forecast, the new Omicron variant has been factored in.
“With the new variant, our current forecast is that the country could see the third wave by February but it will be milder than the second wave. So far we have seen that the severity of Omicron is not like the one seen in the Delta variant,” Agarwal told local media.
By Peerzada Arshad Hamid
India confirms first 2 cases of Omicron, iiQ8, 2 New Varian #Omicron