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Omicron COVID-19 variant doesn’t escape RT-PCR and RAT tests, Centre asks states to ramp up testing

The B.1.1.529 variant of COVID-19 or Omicron was first detected in South Africa last week. However, India has not reported any case of Omicron so far, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said in the Parliament.

November 30, 2021 / 02:21 PM IST
The Omicron variant of COVID-19 was first detected in South Africa. (Representative image: Reuters)

The Omicron variant of COVID-19 was first detected in South Africa. (Representative image: Reuters)

The new COVID-19 variant 'Omicron' doesn't escape RT-PCR and RAT tests, the Centre told States on November 30 while urging to ramp up testing for early identification of positive cases.

READ: Omicron COVID-19 Variant: Know the 5 key symptoms

The advisory came during a review meeting by Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan with the states on the new COVID-19 variant 'Omicron'.

"DG, ICMR (Balram Bhargava) informed that the Omicron variant doesn't escape RTPCR and RAT. Hence, states were advised to ramp up testing for prompt and early identification of any cases" a statement issued by Union Health Minister after the review meeting read.

Also, read : WHO flags Omicron risk, countries tighten curbs; Joe Biden urges vaccination

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The meeting was attended by V K Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog, Rajiv Bansal, Secretary, MoCA, Balram Bhargava, Secretary (Health Research) and DG ICMR, Dr Sujeet K Singh, Director, NCDC, state health secretaries,  representative from Ministry of External Affairs, Bureau of Immigration (BOI), State Airport Public Health Officials (APHOs) and other officials from the States/UTs, among others.

The States have been asked to undertake effective surveillance of international passengers, enhanced testing and effective monitoring of hotspots. A Continued need for further vaccination coverage, adherence to COVID-19 appropriate behavior and need to avoid mass gatherings was also stressed during the meeting.

"Testing of samples of international travelers coming from "at risk" Countries on first day and of specified category of passengers on eight day needs to be scrupulously done. International passengers from “at risk” countries are being advised to prepare to wait at the airports till the report of the RT-PCR test is available," said a statement by the Ministry.

The meeting took place on a day when Union Health Minister Dr Mansukh Mandaviya said in Rajya Sabha that no case of COVID-19 variant ‘Omicron’ was reported in India so far. The Minister was speaking during the Question Hour in the Upper House.

On November 28, the Ministry revised the international travel guidelines in view of this new COVID-19 variant. The new guidelines for international travelers arriving in India, effective December 1 had a list of 12 countries from where travelers would need to follow additional measures on arrival in India including post-arrival testing and quarantine for a period of seven days if they test negative.

Also, read: India promises more COVID-19 shots to Omicron-hit Africa after Chinese move

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 29 urged all citizens to remain vigilant against the variant, adding the Centre's priority is their good health. The World Health Organization (WHO) said on November 29 that the  the 'Omicron' variant carried a very high risk of infection surges as more countries closed their borders, reviving fears over economic recovery from the two-year pandemic.
Gulam Jeelani is a journalist with over 12 years of reporting experience. Based in New Delhi, he covers politics and governance for Moneycontrol.
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