New Delhi, Nov 29, 2021: As more and more countries report cases of the new Omicron variant, governments around the world are scrambling to stop the spread of the new strain. Several countries have imposed travel restrictions, and stricter Covid guidelines have been clamped on at-risk nations.
As per the World Health Organization (WHO), the new Omicron strain poses global ’high risk’. "Given mutations may confer immune escape potential and possibly transmissibility advantage, the likelihood of potential further spread of Omicron at the global level is high. Depending on these characteristics, there could be future surges of Covid-19, which could have severe consequences, depending on a number of factors including where surges may take place. The overall global risk related to the new VOC Omicron is assessed as very high," as per an assessment by WHO.
WHO LISTED PRIORITY ACTIONS FOR MEMBER NATIONS
* Enhance surveillance and sequencing efforts to better understand circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants, including Omicron. Where capacity exists, perform field investigations and laboratory assessments to improve understanding of the characteristics of Omicron. This should include community testing to detect if Omicron is circulating in the community.
* As S gene target failure (SGTF) from a widely used PCR test (ThermoFisher TaqPath) is indicated for Omicron, the SGTF can be used as the marker for this variant, which may lead to efficient detection of Omicron.
* Report initial cases/clusters associated with Omicron infection to WHO through the IHR mechanism.
* Thereafter, report (publicly or through IHR) the proportion of Omicron among sequenced samples (and/or, where available, the proportion of SGTF)
* Accelerate COVID-19 vaccination coverage as rapidly as possible, especially among populations designated as high priority who remain unvaccinated or are not yet fully vaccinated.
* Use a risk-based approach to adjust international travel measures in a timely manner. See forthcoming WHO advice for international traffic in relation to the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant
PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES SUGGESTED
- The use of masks, physical distancing, ventilation of indoor space, crowd avoidance, and hand
hygiene remains key to reducing transmission of SARS CoV-2 even with the emergence of the Omicron variant. Contact tracing of COVID-19 cases to interrupt chains of transmission of SARS- CoV-2 is strongly advised.
- Ensure early warning systems are in place to inform efficient adjustment of public health and social measures.
- In anticipation of increased COVID-19 caseloads and associated pressure on the health system, ensure mitigation plans are in place to maintain essential health services and necessary health care resources are in place to respond to potential surges.
- Authorities should regularly communicate evidence-based information on the Omicron and other circulating variants and potential implication for the public in a timely and transparent manner, including what is known, what is unknown and what is being done by responsible authorities
Meanwhile, India has also tightened its travel rules to prevent the transmission of the new variant. On Sunday, the Centre announced new guidelines for international travellers to India which will come into effect from December 1.
The revised guidelines mandate submitting 14 days’ travel details and uploading a negative RT-PCR test report on the Air Suvidha portal before the journey.
The government said it would review the resumption of scheduled international commercial flights.