Chennai | Jagran News Desk: In a significant decision to avoid a possible third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic amid fears over the Omicron variant, the district administration in Tamil Nadu's Madurai on Saturday announced that unvaccinated people would not be allowed to enter malls, shopping complexes and other public places from next week.

"One week's time has been given to people to get at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, failing which those unvaccinated people to be not allowed to enter public places like hotels, shopping malls and other commercial establishments," Madurai District Collector Aneesh Sekhar was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.

This comes a day after neibhouring Karnataka, where two cases of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19 have been detected, issued similar guidelines and banned unvaccinated people from entering parks, shopping malls and cinema halls. Earlier, Kerala had also issued guidelines for unvaccinated people, saying the state government will not provide free treatment to COVID-19 patients who have not been vaccinated.

"The government will not bear treatment costs for those who haven’t taken vaccine shots. Those who are reluctant to take the vaccine on account of allergy or any disease should produce a certificate issued by a doctor in government service," said Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, as reported by Indian Express.

Several states in India are gearing up to tackle a third possible wave of the pandemic with Omicron taking the center stage across the world. The new variant, dubbed as 'variant of concern' by the World Health Organisation (WHO), can evade some vaccines, experts believe; noting that it is more contagious than the Delta strain.

Amid this, the WHO has urged countries in the Asia-Pacific to boost their health infrastructure and pace up the vaccination drive to tackle the Omicron variant. "What is most important is to prepare for these variants with potential high transmissibility. So far the information available suggests we don't have to change our approach," said WHO regional director for the western Pacific Takeshi Kasai.

Meanwhile, India has reported only two cases of Omicron so far. However, the Union Health Ministry has asked people to takle all necessary precautions to avoid a potential third wave.

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma