New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a high-level meet with top officials of the government over the COVID-19 situation and vaccination in India on Saturday. The meeting comes amid concerns over the rapid spread of the B.1.1.529 variant of the infection that has forced countries to impose travel bans once again.

The B.1.1.529 variant of COVID-19, detected first in South Africa, has been named 'Omicron' by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Omicron has more than 50 mutations and experts suggest that it could be "far more virulent" than the Delta variant which has caused the second wave of the pandemic in India.

"The B.1.1.529 variant was first reported to WHO from South Africa on 24 November 2021. 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 WHO said in a statement.

Looking at the situation, the Centre has directed all states and union territories (UTs) across the country to monitor all travellers from South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong where the Omicron variant has been reported so far. It has also said that travellers from South Africa, Hong Kong and Israel would need to follow additional measures on arrival in India, including post-arrival testing.

Countries from where the travellers would need to follow additional measures on arrival in India are Brazil, Bangladesh, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Israel, countries in Europe, including the United Kingdom (UK).

Meanwhile, India on Saturday 8,318 new COVID-19 cases and 465 deaths in the last 24 hours. Currently, the country's active caseload stands at 1.07 lakh while over 4.67 lakh patients have succumbed to the infection. Meanwhile, 3.39 crore patients have recovered from the infection, said the Union Health Ministry.

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma