The Delhi airport tweeted this morning that operations for international arrivals from "at-risk" countries are running smooth as fresh travel guidelines for new Covid variant, Omicron, kicked in last night.
The variant, first detected in South Africa, poses a "very high" risk globally, the World Health Organization has warned, setting off alarm bells across the world.
"Operations for International arrivals are running smooth after the implementation of the New guidelines laid down by @MoHFW_INDIA," the airport tweeted.
"Total 1013 passengers from 4 'at risk' flights, successfully completed arrival formalities due to availability of Rapid PCR Test along with RTPCR test. 792 passengers decided to take Rapid PCR Test and 221 passengers opted for RT-PCR Test," it said in another post.
The list of countries deemed "at-risk" for now includes the United Kingdom, all 44 countries in Europe, South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Israel.
In Delhi, positive travellers will be shifted to Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Hospital. Their samples will immediately be sent to the INSACOG Labs network, a multi-laboratory, multi-agency, pan-India network set up by the government to monitor genomic variations in the SARS-CoV-2. Those testing negative will have to undergo a mandatory home quarantine for 7 days and again go through an RT-PCR Test.
Existing COVID-19 tests - RT-PCR and RAT - can pick up traces of coronavirus infection even if it is the Omicron strain, the government said, as Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya told Parliament on Tuesday the new variant had not yet been seen in India.
"We are immediately checking suspicious cases and conducting genome sequencing. We have learnt a lot during the Covid crisis. Today, we have a lot of resources and laboratories. We can manage any situation," the Minister said.
The Omicron strain is believed to have 50+ mutations, including over 30 on the spike protein, which is the target of current vaccines and is what the virus uses to unlock access to our body's cells. Researchers are still determining if this is more lethal, and if current vaccines protect against it.