India’s Modi orders review of reopening over Omicron COVID concerns

NEW DELHI, Nov 27 (Reuters) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked officials on Saturday to review plans to ease travel restrictions as concerns mount over the new Omicron version of COVID-19.

The world’s second worst-hit country by the pandemic decided on Friday to resume international passenger flights from countries deemed “at risk” of the coronavirus, ordering stringent border screening.

But after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the new version “a matter of concern”, Modi highlighted the need for “surveillance of all international arrivals, testing them as per guidelines, on countries identified as ‘at risk'”. With special attention,” the government said in a statement after meeting with officials to review the status of COVID-19 and vaccination.

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The WHO said that the oomicrons initially detected in South Africa may spread more rapidly than other forms.

This week, India reported the smallest increase in new cases in a year-and-a-half, due to a surge in vaccinations and antibodies to a large part of its population from past infections.

The country’s daily caseload has halved since September. It recorded 8,318 new cases in the last 24 hours.

But the new version, with the spike protein dramatically different from an existing coronavirus on which the vaccines are based, has raised global alarm and frightened financial markets.

Modi said people should be more alert and take proper precautions, such as wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.

He spoke about the need to “be proactive in light of the new edition,” the statement said.

“He directed that intensive containment and active surveillance should continue in clusters reporting high cases and necessary technical assistance should be provided to the states which are currently reporting high cases.”

Modi asked officials to expedite the coverage of the second dose.

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Reporting by Nidhi Verma; Editing by William Mallard

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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