Credit - ANI
New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday chaired a meeting with the top government officials on the COVID-19 situation and vaccination.
Among those present in the meeting were Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, Principal Secretary to PM, PK Mishra, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan and NITI Aayog member (health) Dr VK Paul.
The meeting comes a day after the World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday classified the B.1.1.529 strain of the coronavirus as a “variant of concern”. The variant of SARS-CoV-2, first detected in Africa’s Botswana, has been named 'Omicron'.
In a statement, WHO said that the epidemiological situation in South Africa has been characterized by three distinct peaks in reported cases, the latest of which was predominantly the Delta variant. "In recent weeks, infections have increased steeply, coinciding with the detection of B.1.1.529 variant. The first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on 9 November 2021," the statement said.
This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa. The discovery of this new COVID-19 variant sent a chill through much of the world on Friday as nations raced to halt air travel.
Amid rising concern about the new variant, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in India directed states to "rigorously' screen and test people travelling from three countries -- South Africa, Botswana, and Hong Kong -- where the cases of the variant have been reported.
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden also confirmed the new travel restrictions for foreign travellers from eight countries in southern Africa due to the emergence of the new Omicron coronavirus variant in the region.
"I am ordering additional air travel restrictions from South Africa and seven other countries. These new restrictions will take effect on November 29," Biden said in a press release. "As we move forward, we will continue to be guided by what the science and my medical team advise."