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Intensive containment, active surveillance, increased coverage of vaccination: Centre to states over new COVID-19 variant 'Omicron'

03:19 PM Nov 28, 2021 | FPJ Web Desk

As concerns grow over the new COVID-19 variant, 'Omicron', the Centre has asked asked all States and Union territories to step up intensive containment and active surveillance as well as better vaccination coverage.

Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan said States Union territories need to continue monitoring the COVID-19 hotspots. "As a proactive step, Government has already placed countries where this Variant of Concern (VoC) has been found in the category of 'At-Risk' countries for additional follow up measures of internationaltravelers coming into lndia from these countries," the health ministry said.

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ln view of the possible threat that this VoC can pose to the nation, it is imperative that the intensive containment, active surveillance, increased coverage of vaccination and Covid Appropriate Behaviour must be enforced in the field in a very proactive manner to effectively manage this VoC, Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan wrote in his letter.

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"lt is essential that the disease surveillance network in the country is geared up for rigorous follow up of all international travelers from all countries especially countries designated as "At Risk". There is already a reporting mechanism for obtaining past travel details of passengers coming through international flights this should be reviewed at your level and the protocol provided by this Ministry should be strictly ensured including testing on disembarkation of internationaltravelers coming from "At Risk" Countries and sending all positive samples for genome sequencing to INSACOG Labs in a prompt manner," Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan wrote in his letter.

Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan said that states should continue monitoring COVID-19 hotspots, areas where arecent cluster of positive cases have emerged. "Continued monitoring of "Hotspots" (areas where recent cluster of positive cases have emerged). ln all such hotspots", saturation testing and sending of positive samples quickly for genome sequencing to designated INSACOG Labs must be ensured in collaboration with Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Govt. of lndia and National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). States should keep a close check on the emerging trend of cases and the positivity in an area and quickly delineate hotspots for effective containment," Union health secretary said in the letter.

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, the health ministry said.

"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.

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