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Coronavirus India Highlights: States in India are stepping up precautionary measures over fears of the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus, which has now spread to around 20 countries. In Delhi, for example, passengers landing from ‘at risk’ countries now have to get tested at the airport and can leave only once they get their results. The Maharashtra government has made institutional quarantine mandatory for travellers arriving from ‘at risk’ countries.
The Centre on Tuesday extended the nationwide Covid-19 containment measures till December 31. The Indian Express has learnt that the Centre has tightened its genome sequencing measures to ensure early detection of new variants, including Omicron. The Health Ministry has asked states to send “100 per cent samples” from Covid hotspots.
Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya Tuesday informed Parliament that India had so far not reported any case of the new variant, and underlined that the government was taking measures to ensure it does not reach the country.
Meanwhile, it has been revealed that Omicron was in circulation in countries before it was detected and announced by scientists in South Africa. The World Health Organization has warned that blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread of Omicron, but place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods.
Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai will meet Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya tomorrow. “I’m going to Delhi on December 2 during which I will be meeting the Union Health Minister, I will discuss with him administration of booster dose to health and front line workers who had taken first and subsequently the second dose of vaccine about six to seven months back,” Bommai said. He reiterated there was no need for “unnecessary worry” on lockdown-like measures.
Passengers arriving from the UK at Delhi’s international airport on Wednesday morning told The Indian Express the lounge was “crowded” and they were made to wait 3-4 hours after taking Covid-19 tests for their results. Many passengers complained they weren’t provided with water, food or charging points.
The airport has seen international arrivals only from the UK till now as officials said flights from China, Singapore and other countries have been delayed.
Officials explained there were two options for people arriving at the airport. The first was to pay Rs 500 for the test and Rs 1,200 for special lounge facility that includes stay, snacks, beverage etc. The test results take around 6-8 hours. The second is to pay Rs 3,900 for a rapid RT-PCR test and get the report in a couple of hours.
India reported 8,954 cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday and 267 deaths. This takes the country’s overall caseload to 3,45,96,776, and toll to 4,69,247. The active Covid-19 cases have declined to 99,023. 
The Gujarat government extended the ongoing night curfew (1 am to 5 am) in eight metropolitan cities of the state amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
As per a notification order released by the Home Department of the state government on Tuesday night, eight cities — Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot, Vadodara, Gandhinagar, Bhavnagar, Jamnagar and Junagadh — will continue to have night curfew from 1 am to 5 am from December 1 to December 10. Read more
Tightening its genome sequencing measures to ensure early detection of new variants, including Omicron, the Union Health Ministry has asked states to send “100 per cent samples” from Covid hotspots, starting with two recent clusters in Karnataka’s Dharwad and Maharashtra’s Thane, The Indian Express has learnt.
On Tuesday, during a high-level review meeting chaired by Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, the states were advised to send “all positive samples” for genome sequencing to designated INSACOG labs “in a prompt manner”. Earlier, only about five per cent of samples from positive cases detected by RT-PCR tests were sent for genome sequencing. Kaunain Sheriff M reports
Six international passengers from “countries at-risk” have tested positive for Covid-19 in Maharashtra.  
The state government on Tuesday tightened rules for international travellers, making institutional quarantine of seven days compulsory for all coming from these countries. Domestic air travellers coming into Maharashtra will also have to carry a negative RT-PCR test report – sample tested within 48 hours of arrival – irrespective of their vaccination status. Yogesh Naik and Rupsa Chakraborty report
With passengers from ‘at risk’ countries now having to stay back at airports to wait for their RT-PCR reports, the Indira Gandhi International Airport has made seating arrangements for 1,200 to 1,400 people as they wait. Around 600 samples can be collected per hour, airport officials said. If the volumes increase, the facility for testing and seating arrangements can be increased.
Passengers who arrive at the airport from the countries at risk will have to pay Rs 1,700 for the test, food and water while they stay at the airport and wait for the report. The wait is expected to be 4-6 hours long. Read more here
The heavily mutated new coronavirus variant was in Europe several days earlier than previously known, health officials said Tuesday, and the number of countries where it has been found increased to at least 20, raising questions about whether the pandemic is about to surge once again. The NYT reports
The Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital has been designed as a dedicated facility to treat patients testing positive for the new Covid-19 variant ‘Omicron’ in New Delhi. The government has ordered that no patient of the new variant will be denied admission on any ground.
So far, no cases of the B.1.1.529 or Omicron variant have been detected in India but the Delhi government has placed the Health and other administrative departments on alert. As the dedicated facility to treat patients detected with the new variant, Lok Nayak Hospital has been directed to designate one or more separate wards for isolating and treating such patients.
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With six international passengers from “countries at-risk” testing positive for Covid-19 in Maharashtra, the state government on Tuesday tightened rules for international travellers, making institutional quarantine of seven days compulsory for all coming from these countries.
Domestic air travellers coming into Maharashtra will also have to carry a negative RT-PCR test report – sample tested within 48 hours of arrival – irrespective of their vaccination status.
Read more
Tightening its genome sequencing measures to ensure early detection of new variants, including Omicron, the Union Health Ministry has asked states to send “100 per cent samples” from Covid hotspots, starting with two recent clusters in Karnataka’s Dharwad and Maharashtra’s Thane, The Indian Express has learnt.
On Tuesday, during a high-level review meeting chaired by Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, the states were advised to send “all positive samples” for genome sequencing to designated INSACOG labs “in a prompt manner”. Earlier, only about five per cent of samples from positive cases detected by RT-PCR tests were sent for genome sequencing.
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The divisional commissioner of Jammu reviewed Covid testing and mitigation measures on Tuesday night amid concerns over the new coronavirus variant Omicron, an official spokesperson said. Divisional Commissioner Raghav Langer directed the concerned officers to access data from the Air Suvidha portal for early detection of passengers coming from ‘at-risk’ countries, he said.
The state surveillance officer (SSO) was asked to share the lists with chief medical officers (CMOs) and field surveillance units on a real-time basis. ‘The CMOs were asked to paste stickers of ‘home quarantine’ on the gate of (accommodation of) foreign travellers during the observation period of eight days,’ the spokesperson said.
The administrations of Kathua, Jammu and Reasi districts, which are the entry points to the Jammu division, were also asked to set up paid quarantine centres, he said. The health department was directed to designate separate wards for Covid-positive patients with foreign travel history, according to the spokesperson. (PTI)
With passengers from ‘at risk’ countries now having to stay back at airports to wait for their RT PCR reports, the Indira Gandhi International Airport has made seating arrangements for 1,200 to 1,400 people as they wait.
Around 600 samples can be collected per hour, airport officials said. If the volumes increase, the facility for testing and seating arrangements can be increased. A change in guidelines followed the detection of the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus in several countries, including South Africa, Botswana, the UK, and several countries of the European Union.
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The Delhi Disaster Management Authority has asked the state health department to make sure there are enough hospital beds, medicines, and medical oxygen in the city to battle a possible spike in Covid cases.
In a meeting held Monday to discuss interventions and actions to be taken in view of the Omicron variant being detected in several countries, chaired by L-G Anil Baijal, it was decided to stick to the test, track, treat strategy earnestly, and to follow-up with international passengers who have to be placed under home isolation.
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Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi again on Tuesday to stop flights from countries affected by the Omicron variant of Covid-19.
“Many countries have stopped flights from countries affected by the Omicron variant. Why are we delaying? In the first wave, too, we had delayed stopping flights. Most international flights come to Delhi, and so it is the worst affected. PM sir, please stop flights immediately,” Kejriwal tweeted in Hindi.
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With the threat of a third Covid wave looming large over the country, several states have imposed restrictions to keep the spread of the new variant — Omicron — at bay. In a review meeting with states and UTs, the Centre on Tuesday advised them to ramp up testing for the early identification of Covid cases and ensure adequate infrastructure for management and isolation.
Here are some of the measures taken by the states to curb the spread of infections.
The Centre on Tuesday extended the nation-wide Covid-19 containment measures till December 31 in view of the emergence of a highly mutant COVID-19 variant Omicron in some countries and asked the states to be vigilant.
In a communication, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla also asked states and UTs to strictly adhere to the November 25 advisory issued by the Union Health Ministry, recommending rigorous screening and testing of all international arrivals. Bhalla also said that the contacts of the international travellers must be closely tracked and tested as per the health ministry guidelines, and the samples of travellers turning positive sent to the designated Genome Sequencing Laboratories promptly, as per the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) Guidance Document.
He said the state surveillance officers must also establish close coordination with their designated or tagged genome sequencing laboratories for expediting results of genomic analysis, and the States and UTs should immediately undertake necessary public health measures, in case of the presence of variants of concern.
Accordingly, the home secretary directed that the existing “Prompt and Effective Containment Measures for COVID-19” must be continued till December 31. (PTI)
The Goa government on Tuesday decided to make RT-PCR test and self-isolation mandatory for all the international passengers arriving in the coastal state while those coming from the 12 “high risk” countries, where the Omicron variant of coronavirus was detected, will be quarantined for 14 days.
Chief Minister Pramod Sawant on Tuesday chaired a high-level meeting of officials along with health minister Vishwajit Rane in view of the rising global concerns over the latest variant.
Officials of the Goa health department, airport, and the Mormugao Port Trust also attended the meeting.
“The state government will adhere to the guidelines issued by the Central government to avoid the spread of coronavirus in the country. While all the international passengers will have to undergo RT-PCR test compulsorily, those arriving from the 12 countries, where Omicron variant has been detected, would be quarantined for 14 days,” Sawant said, adding that all the international passengers, excluding those from the 12 countries, would have to undergo self-isolation on their arrival in the state.
Sawant said the Union government is expected to decide a policy on chartered flights on Wednesday, which will bring clarity on the upcoming tourism season. (PTI)
The Gujarat government extended the ongoing night curfew (1 am to 5 am) in eight metropolitan cities of the state amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
As per a notification order released by the Home Department of the state government on Tuesday night, eight cities — Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot, Vadodara, Gandhinagar, Bhavnagar, Jamnagar and Junagadh — will continue to have night curfew from 1 am to 5 am from December 1 to December 10. Read More
New findings about the coronavirus’s omicron variant made it clear Tuesday that the emerging threat slipped into countries well before their defences were up, as two distant nations announced their first cases and a third reported its presence before South African officials sounded the alarm.
The Netherlands’ RIVM health institute found omicron in samples dating from Nov. 19 and 23. The World Health Organization said South Africa first reported the variant to the UN health agency on Nov. 24. Meanwhile, Japan and France reported their first cases of the new variant that has forced the world once again to pinball between hopes of returning to normal and fears that the worst is yet to come. Read More
COVID-19 New Variant Live News, Coronavirus India Covid-19 India Latest Update: Commercial international flights have been suspended in the country since March last year owing to the coronavirus pandemic. (File Photo)
On Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, currently circulating in South Africa, as a ‘variant of concern’. It also named it Omicron.
The Network for Genomics Surveillance in South Africa (NGS-SA) had identified the variant on Monday. It had detected a group of related SARS-CoV-2 viruses, which belong to a lineage named B.1.1.529.
Early indications are that this variant is possibly even more transmissible than the highly infectious Delta variant, and that current vaccines may be less effective against it.
New variants continue to emerge as SARS-CoV-2 spreads, and the significance of each mutation becomes known after a period of time. But health authorities worldwide need to keep a constant watch to identify which ones are more important than others. It was as part of such an exercise that the NGS-SA detected B.1.1.529.
From what is known currently, B.1.1.529 has multiple spike protein mutations, and preliminary analysis suggests it is highly infectious. South Africa has reported a four-fold increase in new cases over the last two weeks, coinciding with the emergence of B.1.1.529.
On Thursday, the NGS-SA said B.1.1.529 has rapidly increased in Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg and Pretoria, and may already be present in most provinces. The NGS-SA has said the sustained increase in cases is possibly fuelled by cluster outbreaks.
With an eye on reports from across the world about Omicron, the new Covid “variant of concern”, the Central Government Sunday issued revised guidelines for international travellers arriving from Europe, including the UK, and 11 other “at risk” countries, mandating testing on arrival, home quarantine for seven days on a negative result, and a retest on the eighth day.
The Health Ministry directed all states to ensure that for international travellers from countries other than those labelled “at risk”, five per cent of a flight’s total number of passengers will have to undergo random-testing on arrival at airports.
With the threat of a third Covid wave looming large over the country, several states have imposed restrictions to keep the spread of the new variant — Omicron — at bay. In a review meeting with states and UTs, the Centre on Tuesday advised them to ramp up testing for the early identification of Covid cases and ensure adequate infrastructure for management and isolation.

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