The Centre on Sunday wrote to all states and Union Territories listing out necessary measures to counter the new Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus, reported PTI.

The B.1.1.529, or the Omicron variant was first detected in South Africa on November 24. TheWorld Health Organization has classified the strain as a “variant of concern”, due to higher risk of transmissibility and increased resistance to vaccines

Here are 10 Omicron variant-related developments that took place in India on Sunday.

  1. Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan asked the states and Union Territories to increase testing, tighten containment measures and ramp up vaccine coverage. 
  2. In a letter, Bhushan asked the states and Union Territories to take additional measures for travellers coming from “at risk” countries. He asked the states to ensure that the passengers are tested according to the health ministry’s protocol and that their samples are sent for genome sequencing.
  3. The Union health ministry said that states should aim at achieving a positivity rate of below 5% and continue to monitor Covid-19 hotspots. “ln all such ‘hotspots’, saturation testing and sending of positive samples quickly for genome sequencing must be ensured,” Bhushan said.
  4. The Union government has also decided to review the decision to resume scheduled commercial international passenger flights from December 15, PTI reported.
  5. All India Institute of Medical Sciences chief Dr Randeep Guelria said that the new variant has over 30 mutations, giving it the potential to develop a immunoescape mechanism, reported PTI. This means that the virus could dodge antibodies formed due a prior infection, or vaccination. Guleria said that as a result, the efficacy of vaccines against the Omicron variant needed to be evaluated critically.
  6. Goa’s tourism sector has adopted a “wait and watch” policy in view of the Omicron variant, reported PTI. The state typically witnesses a huge footfall of tourists in December. “If cases go up, then protocols will have to be adhered to even more strictly,” Travel and Tourism Association of Goa chief Nilesh Shah said.
  7. The Karnataka government has advised postponing all social and cultural events, conferences, seminars and academic events for the next two months after Covid-19 clusters were found in Mysuru, Dharwad and Bengaluru, reported ANI. The state authorities also said that they will test passengers arriving from South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong where cases of the new variant have been found.
  8. Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia has said that all the government departments were on high alert in view of the Omicron variant and appealed to people to avoid unnecessary gatherings, reported Mint.
  9. In Mumbai, Mayor Kishori Pednekar has said passengers arriving in the city from South Africa will be quarantined.
  10.   World Health Organization’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said that the Omicron variant should serve as a “wake-up call” for covid-appropriate behavior in India, NDTV reported.