After the highly transmissible new variant B.1.1529 of COVID-19 was reported in South Africa, the Telangana Health Department has tightened surveillance activities at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport.
The officials sounded a high alert and are focusing on all international travellers from Botswana, South Africa, Israel, Belgium, and Hong Kong. Passengers from these countries have to undergo rigorous screening and testing based on guidelines released by the Union Health Ministry.
Besides this, the contacts of these travellers will also be closely monitored and, in case they test positive for the virus, their samples will be sent to the designated nearest Genome Sequencing Laboratory (GSL), i.e., CCMB-Hyderabad, which tracks new coronavirus variants in the country. The coronavirus patient will immediately be shifted to a health care facility for isolation and treatment.
The health department officials further said that if needed, we will also appoint special surveillance teams like in port areas in Andhra Pradesh to track travellers arriving from these countries.
While the variant is named Omicron, over 100 cases were detected in South Africa. As the WHO says that it will take time to understand the new variant, the union health ministry has pointed out an alert in Hyderabad, Vijayawada, and Visakhapatnam and asked the surveillance teams to be able to track all travellers coming from "at risk" countries.