New Delhi, Nov 25, 2021: The Union Health Ministry has issued an alert for the B.1.1.529 variant of the novel coronavirus. Detected recently by scientists in South Africa, the variant is characterised by a "very unusual constellation" of mutations.
Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, in a letter to all states and UTs, wrote, "This variant is reported to have a significantly high number of mutations, and thus, has serious public health implications for the country, in view of recently relaxed visa restrictions and opening up of international travel."
Confirmed cases of the new variant have been reported from Botswana, South Africa and Hong Kong.
In his letter to all states and UTs, the Union Health Secretary writes that all international travellers entering India from "at-risk" countries must be subjected to rigorous screening and testing.
The "contacts of these international travellers must also be closely tracked and tested" as per the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), the letter goes on to add.
Rajesh Bhushan also instructed the additional chief secretaries, principal secretaries and health secretaries of all states and UTs to ensure that samples of travellers turning positive for the new variant are sent to the designated INSACOG Genome Sequencing labs.