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PM Modi directs officials to review plans for easing of international travel curbs amid omicron concern

In the high-level meeting that lasted almost two hours PM Modi also said that awareness needs to be created about ventilation and air-borne behaviour of the virus.

November 27, 2021 / 03:58 PM IST
PM Modi chairs high level meeting amid rising global concerns over new COVID variant. Image source: PMO

PM Modi chairs high level meeting amid rising global concerns over new COVID variant. Image source: PMO

In an important meeting on the COVID-19 scenario and vaccination status in the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 27 directed officials to review plans for easing of international travel restrictions amid rising concerns over new COVID variant - B.1.1.529, or Omicron.

The meeting was attended by top officials including Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, Principal Secretary to the prime minister PK Mishra, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan and NITI Aayog member (health) Dr VK Paul.

In the high-level meeting that lasted almost two hours PM Modi said that: "In light of the new threat, people need to more cautious and the need to take proper precautions like masking & social distancing. PM highlighted the need for monitoring all international arrivals, their testing as per guidelines, with a specific focus on countries identified ‘at risk’. PM also asked officials to review plans for easing of international travel restrictions in light of the emerging new evidence."

"The PM also asked officials to review plans for easing international travel restrictions in light of the emerging new evidence,” the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement.

According to PMO, PM 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 INSACOG and early warning signal identified for COVID-19 management.

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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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PM Modi also asked that awareness needs to be created about ventilation and air-borne behaviour of the virus.

“He also directed officials to work closely with state governments to ensure that there is proper awareness at the state and district level. He directed that intensive containment and active surveillance should continue in clusters reporting higher cases and required technical support be provided to states which are reporting higher cases presently,” according to the PMO statement.

Officials briefed PM that they are following a facilitative approach to newer pharmaceutical products. PM instructed officials to coordinate with states to ensure that there is adequate buffer stocks of various medicines. He asked officials to work with the states to review the functioning of medical infrastructure including pediatric facilities, added the statement.

PM asked officials to co-ordinate with states to endure proper functioning of PSA oxygen plants & ventilators.

The new COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529, first detected from South Africa this week, was on November 26 designated as a Variant of Concern by the World Health Organisation, which named it Omicron. A variant of concern is the WHO's top category of worrying COVID-19 variants.

"This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs. The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa," the WHO had said in a press release.
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first published: Nov 27, 2021 03:58 pm
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