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New COVID-19 variant Omicron: Quarantine, genome sequencing in Mumbai for people arriving from South Africa

The new COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529, first detected in South Africa this week, has been designated as a Variant of Concern by the World Health Organisation (WHO)

November 27, 2021 / 02:02 PM IST
Genome sequencing of passengers will also be done if they found COVID-19 positive, said Mumbai mayor Kishori Pednekar. (File image)

Genome sequencing of passengers will also be done if they found COVID-19 positive, said Mumbai mayor Kishori Pednekar. (File image)


Passengers arriving at Mumbai airport from South Africa will be quarantined after a potentially more contagious new coronavirus variant called Omicron was identified in the country earlier this week, city’s mayor Kishori Pednekar announced on November 27.

Genome sequencing of passengers will also be done if they are found COVID-19 positive, news agency ANI said quoting the mayor.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has called a meeting of senior officials at 5:30 pm on November 27 on the new COVID-19 variant, reported the news agency.

The new COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529, first detected in South Africa this week, was designated as a Variant of Concern by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on November 26, which named it Omicron. A variant of concern is the WHO's top category of worrying COVID-19 variants. It was first reported to the WHO from South Africa on November 24, and has also been identified in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel. A number of countries around the world have now decided to ban or restrict travel to and from these six southern Africa nations.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Earlier on the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired an important meeting amid rising global concerns over the new coronavirus strain. The meeting is being attended by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, P K Mishra, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan and NITI Aayog member (health) Dr V K Paul among others.

Also read | Omicron: All you need to know about new COVID-19 strain from South Africa

The Union Health Ministry on November 26 said the countries in Europe, including the United Kingdom, and South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel have been put in the "at-risk" category. Passengers coming from 'at-risk' countries have to give their samples at the airport for RT-PCR testing, according to the Union Health Ministry's rules.

Also read | New COVID variant threat causes worldwide scramble

On November 25, the Centre asked all states and union territories to conduct rigorous screening and testing of all international travellers coming from or transiting through South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana, where the B.1.1.529 variant has been detected.
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first published: Nov 27, 2021 02:02 pm
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