New Delhi: The Centre on Thursday asked all states and union territories to conduct rigorous screening and testing of all international travellers coming from or transiting through South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana, where a new COVID-19 variant of serious public health implications has been reported.

In a letter address to additional chief secretary/principal secretary/secretary (Health) of all states and union territories, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan asked them to ensure that samples of travellers turning positive are sent to designated genome sequencing laboratories promptly.

It has now been reported by National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) that multiple cases of a COVID-19 variant B.1.1529 have been reported in Botswana (3 cases), South Africa (6 cases) and Honk Kong (1 case), Bhushan said in the letter.

“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.

“It is therefore imperative that all international travellers travelling from and transiting through these countries, (they are part of the “at risk” country category of international travellers coming to India) and also including all other at risk’ countries indicated in the revised Guidelines for International Arrivals issued by this Ministry dated November 11,2021, are subjected to rigorous screening and testing, as per MoHFW Guidelines,” Bhushan said.

The contacts of these international travellers must also be closely tracked and tested as per MoHFW guidelines.

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