Explained: Change in rules for foreign travellers to India due to new Covid variant

🔴 Bhushan said that the Covid variant B.1.1529 is reported to have a significantly high number of mutations, and thus, has serious public health implications for India in view of the recently relaxed visa restrictions and opening up of international travel.

The health ministry Thursday issued a direction to all states that international travellers coming from and transiting through Botswana, South Africa, and Hong Kong must be subjected to rigorous screening and testing, due to multiple cases of Covid-19 variant 8.1.1529 reported in these countries.

Why has the advisory been issued?

Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said India’s National Centre for Disease Control has reported to the health ministry that multiple cases of Covid-19 variant B.1.1529 have been reported in Botswana (3 cases), South Africa (6 cases), and, Hong Kong (1 case).

Bhushan said that the variant is reported to have a significantly high number of mutations, and thus, has serious public health implications for India in view of the recently relaxed visa restrictions and opening up of international travel.

What does the direction mean for international travellers arriving from these countries?

These countries are part of the ‘at risk’ country category of international travellers coming to India. They will be subjected to rigorous screening and testing, and all their contacts will also be closely tracked and tested as per the health ministry guidelines for this category.

How will India track the new variant?

The states will now have to send the samples of travellers turning positive to designated labs of Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genetics Consortium (INSACOG), that tracks and monitors emergence and transmission of Covid-19 variants of concerns and variants of interests in India. Also, state surveillance officers will have to coordinate with the INSACOG labs and undertake test-track-treat to prevent the spread of the variant and formation of cluster of cases.

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