Hyderabad: The Telangana state health department on Sunday set alarm bells ringing over the discovery of the ‘Omicron’ variant of the Coronavirus, and warned people to be extra cautious and careful.
Addressing a press conference here on Sunday, director of public health and family welfare Dr. G. Srinivasa Rao called on people to “stay away from large groups of people.” “It is time again to follow this rule with Christmas, New Year, and Sankranti festivities which are coming up,” he said.
Saying it was a matter of time before the Omicron variant - considered 30 times more infectious than the Delta variant - makes its way into India, he said, “People seem to believe that Covid has gone. It has not. Everyone must adhere to the norms of wearing masks, personal safety precautions and get vaccinated,” he said, adding the low daily Covid-19 caseload of around 150 a day in Telangana appears to have pushed people into a false sense of security.
On Sunday, health minister T. Harish Rao chaired a nearly two-hour long meeting on steps being taken to prevent the entry of ‘Omicron’ variant of concern (VoC) into Telangana, or its containment if it did enter. Dr Srinivasa Rao said, “Every passenger who comes from other countries, be it South Africa, Botswana, Hong Kong, or others that have found Omicron variant infected rpersons will be screened at the airport, tested and sent to home isolation. If found Covid-19 positive, then their samples will be sent for genome sequencing to determine the variant,” he said.
Even as the state said it was ramping up Covid-19 surveillance, Telangana state chief secretary Somesh Kumar received a letter from Rajesh Bhushan, secretary at the union ministry of health and family welfare asking the state to be on toes with respect to the Omicron variant. In his letter, Bhushan directed chief secretaries of all states, “In view of the possible threat this VoC can pose to the nation, it is imperative that intensive containment, active surveillance, increased coverage of vaccination and Covid appropriate behaviour must be enforced in the field in a very proactive manner to effectively manage this VoC.”
Bhushan further called on all states to ramp up the proportion of Rt-PCR tests. He said, “ln the absence of sufficient testing, it is extremely difficult to determine the true level of infection spread. States must strengthen the testing infrastructure and strictly implement the testing guidelines.”...