More Testing, Check Hotspots, Centre Tells States On 'Omicron': 10 Points

Omicron Variant: India has placed nations where this variant of concern has been found in the category of "at-risk" countries for additional follow-up measures of travellers coming to India

Omicron Covid Variant: International arrivals from at-risk nations are being quarantined

New Delhi: The centre has asked all states to step up intensive containment and active surveillance as well as better vaccination coverage amid worries over the new coronavirus strain, 'Omicron', which was first detected in South Africa.

Here's your 10-point cheatsheet to this big story:

  1. India has placed nations where this variant of concern has been found in the category of "at-risk" countries for additional follow-up measures of travellers coming to India.

  2. "It is imperative that intensive containment, active surveillance, increased coverage of vaccination and Covid-appropriate behaviour be enforced in a very proactive measure to effectively manage this variant of concern," the Health Ministry said in a statement today.

  3. There is already a reporting mechanism for obtaining past travel details of passengers coming through international flights, and this should be reviewed at your level, the centre told the states.

  4. "Ample testing infrastructure need to be operationalised to tackle any surge due to this mutated virus. It has been observed that the overall testing as well as the proportion of RT-PCR tests have declined in some states. In the absence of sufficient testing, it is extremely difficult to determine the true level of infection spread," the Health Ministry said.

  5. Continued monitoring of hotspots, or areas where recent cluster of positive cases have emerged, should be done. Saturation testing is needed at hotspots and all positive samples should be sent to designated labs for genome sequencing.

  6. State should aim to achieve positivity rate below 5 per cent, while focusing on increasing the number of tests and share of RT-PCR tests to help in early identification.

  7. "Having adequate availability of health facilities across the state is essential to ensure there are no delays in providing care... States are requested to optimally use financial support provided by the government," the centre said in the statement.

  8. INSACOG has been set up to monitor circulating variants in the country. It is important that at this juncture, states must significantly increase sampling from the general population. INSACOG, short for Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium, is a multi-laboratory, multi-agency and pan-India network to monitor genomic variations of the coronavirus.

  9. "We have seen in the last surges in the country that the discourse on Covid is often influenced by misinformation, leading to anxiety in the masses. To address this, all states should proactively and regularly address the concerns of community through press briefings and state bulletins," the centre said.

  10. The 'Omicron' variant has been detected in Britain, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Austria, Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong. The discovery of 'Omicron' last week has sparked worries around the world that it could resist vaccinations and prolong the nearly two-year COVID-19 pandemic.