Amid mounting global concerns over the new coronavirus strain ‘Omicron’, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday stressed the need to be proactive and directed officials to review plans for easing of international travel restrictions in light of the “emerging new evidence”. Modi, who chaired a comprehensive meeting to review the situation related to COVID-19 and vaccination in the country, was briefed by top health officials about ‘Omicron’, described by WHO as a “variant of concern”, with its characteristics and the impact seen in various countries. Its implications for India were also discussed during the meeting, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said in a statement. Modi’s directive to officials comes a day after the civil aviation ministry announced the resumption of scheduled international flights to and from India from December 15 after 20 months of coronavirus-induced suspension.
During the meeting which lasted for about two hours, the PM spoke about the need to be proactive in light of the new variant and urged people to be more cautious and take proper precautions like masking up and maintaining social distance, the PMO said.
In a tweet after the meeting, Modi said, “reviewed the COVID-19 and vaccination-related situation. In light of the new variant, we remain vigilant, with a focus on containment and ensuring increased second dose coverage.” During the meeting, the Prime Minister was also given an overview of the sequencing efforts in the country and the variants circulating in the country, the statement said.
Modi directed that genome sequencing samples be collected from international travellers and community as per norms, tested through the network of labs already established under the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) and early warning signals identified for Covid-19 management, the statement said. Modi also spoke about the need to increase the sequencing efforts and make it more broad-based.