Coronavirus updates | November 28, 2021

A health worker administering vaccine to a Central Vista construction worker at a free COVID-19 vaccination camp, in New Delhi, November 27, 2021   | Photo Credit: SANDEEP SAXENA

The Netherlands confirmed 13 cases of the new omicron variant of the coronavirus on Sunday and Australia found two as the countries half a world apart became the latest to detect it in travelers arriving from southern Africa.

Israel decided to bar entry to foreigners and Morocco said it would suspend all incoming air travel from around the world for two weeks starting Monday — the most drastic of a growing raft of travel curbs being imposed by nations around the world as they scramble to slow the variant's spread.

Meanwhile in India, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushanm while cautioning that overall testing and the proportion of RT-PCR tests have declined in some States, has directed that “ample testing infrastructure need to be operationalised to tackle any surge due to Omicron, the mutated COVID virus”.

The Government will also review “the decision on an effective date of resumption of scheduled commercial international passengers service as per evolving global scenario while keeping a closer watch on emerging pandemic situation within the country”.

Read | Indian tourists may fill flights to Southeast Asia 

You can track coronavirus cases, deaths and testing rates at the national and State levels here. A list of State Helpline numbers is available as well.

Here are the latest developments:

India

Home Secretary chairs high level review meeting

Central Government will review "the decision on effective date of resumption of scheduled commercial international passengers service as per evolving global scenario while keeping a closer watch on emerging pandemic situation within the country," said a release issued by the Central Government following a meeting chaired by Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla on Sunday.

The meeting held to review the global situation in wake of Omicron virus was attendant by various domain experts including Dr. V.K. Paul, Member (Health) NITI Aayog, Dr. Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser to Prime Minister and senior officers from Health, Civil Aviation and other Ministries.

It has also been decided that Airport Health Officials (APHOs) and Port Health Officials (PHOs) will be sensitized for strict supervision of testing protocol at airports/ ports, added the release. - Bindu Shajan Perappadan

The Netherlands

 

Netherlands confirms 13 cases of Omicron variant

The Dutch public health authority confirmed that 13 people who arrived in the Netherlands on flights from South Africa on Friday have so far tested positive for omicron. They were among 61 people who tested positive for the virus on Friday after arriving on the last two flights to Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport before a flight ban was put in place. They were immediately put into isolation, most at a nearby hotel, while sequencing was carried out.

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Haryana

Regularly monitoring COVID-19 situation in Haryana, says CM Khattar

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Sunday said he has been regularly monitoring the COVID-19 situation in the state and there has been no significant jump in cases.

He also said authorities are alert in the wake of the new Covid-19 variant 'Omicron' reported in some countries. - PTI

National

Government to review decision on restarting international flights, SOP for incoming passengers

The government on Sunday decided to review the decision on resuming scheduled commercial international passenger services as well as SOP on testing and surveillance of incoming passengers, especially from countries identified as 'at risk', in the wake of the emergence of the new COVID-19 variant of concern 'Omicron'.

The decisions were taken at an urgent meeting chaired by Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla and attended by various stakeholders, an official spokesperson said.

The meeting was held a day after a high-level review by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the new COVID-19 variant of concern 'Omicron'.

After a long hiatus of more than 20 months, the government had on November 26 announced the resumption of scheduled international commercial flights from December 15. - PTI

The Philippines

Philippines to buy extra 20 million doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine

The Philippines will buy an additional 20 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE, seeking to fully inoculate more than 80% of its population by mid-2022, a government official said on Sunday.

A deal has been signed with Pfizer, bringing the government's total purchases of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to 60 million doses, said Carlito Galvez Jr, who is in charge of the Southeast Asian country's COVID-19 vaccine procurement. -Reuters

Karnataka

Dakshina Kannada to intensify screening and testing on Karnataka-Kerala border

Dakshina Kannada Deputy Commissioner K.V. Rajendra on Sunday said the administration will intensify screening and testing of travellers from Kerala to the district in view of the enhanced COVID-19 threat.

Dr. Rajendra told reporters here though the administration had upped the testing and checking at borders in the last four months, it became a little lax for the last one month after drastic reduction in cases. Still, Kerala reports about 8% test positivity rate and hence there was need to enhance surveillance.

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Australia

Australia detects first Covid Omicron infections

Health officials in Australia said Sunday they had detected the COVID-19 Omicron strain for the first time after testing two passengers from southern Africa who flew into Sydney.

The eastern state of New South Wales' health authority said it had conducted urgent genomic testing and confirmed the new strain was present in two passengers who landed in Sydney on Saturday.

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Singapore

Singapore tracking Omicron COVID-19 variant ‘very closely’: PM Lee

Singapore is tracking the emerging Omicron COVID-19 variant “very closely” and could be forced to take a few steps back again before moving ahead with easing of safety measures and opening up the economy, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Sunday.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday declared Omicron "a variant of concern", putting it in the same category as the Delta variant that has caused waves of infection to sweep across the globe and forcing several European countries to re-enter lockdown. -PTI

National

Government panel seeks additional data from SII, says Covovax not yet been approved in country of origin

An expert panel of India's Central Drug Authority, which recently reviewed Serum Institute's application seeking emergency authorisation of COVID-19 vaccine Covovax, has sought additional data from the firm, while noting the jab has not yet been approved in the country of origin, official sources said.

The Serum Institute of India (SII) had put in an application to the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) in October for grant of market authorisation of Covovax for restricted use in emergency situations.

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National

Active cases in India decline to 1,05,691 lowest in 543 days

India saw a single-day rise of 8,774 new coronavirus infections, taking country's total tally of cases to 3,45,72,523, while the active cases have declined to 1,05,691 the lowest in 543 days, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Sunday.

The death toll has climbed to 4,68,554, with 621 daily fatalities, according to the data updated at 8 am.

The daily rise in new coronavirus infections has been below 20,000 for 51 straight days and less than 50,000 daily new cases have been reported for 154 consecutive days now.

The active cases have declined to 1,05,691, comprising 0.31% of the total infections, the lowest since March 2020, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate was recorded at 98.34%, the highest since March 2020, the Health Ministry said. -PTI

Karnataka

New variant, clusters: Next 3 months crucial, say experts

Following growing concern about a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 and reporting of cluster infections in the State, COVID-19 experts here have cautioned that the next three months are crucial.

Following panic over reports of two South African nationals testing positive for COVID-19 at Bengaluru airport, Health and Medical Education Minister K. Sudhakar said there is no need to panic as no case of ‘Omicron’ has been detected in Karnataka.

In the light of the emerging new COVID-19 variant (Omicron) found in South Africa and emerging clusters in some colleges in Karnataka, the State Government has made RT-PCR negative reports mandatory for people coming to the State from Kerala and Maharashtra.

TAC member Giridhar R. Babu, who also heads Lifecourse Epidemiology at Indian Institute of Public Health in Bengaluru, has said that restricting entry from a few countries is not going to help either prevent or control the spread of the new variant. “It is akin to closing a stable door after a horse has bolted. Instead, identify clusters of recent origin and do genomic sequencing. Since the day of first case of ‘Omicron’, establish travel history and identify secondary transmission throughout the world. If the primary case was in early November, it would not be difficult to miss areas of circulation,” he said in a series of tweets.

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Goa

Two wards in Goa health facility to be kept for managing cases amid concerns over new coronavirus variants: government

The super-speciality block at the Goa Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) will be denotified as the COVID-19 facility, but two wards in the old GMCH wing will be dedicated for the management of cases amid the rising concern over new variants of coronavirus, state Health Minister Vishwajit Rane said on Saturday.

The Goa government's decision comes amid rising concerns worldwide over the detection of patients infected with Omicron strain of coronavirus in South Africa. -PTI

International

Israel to ban entry of foreigners from all countries over Omicron

Israel on Saturday said it would ban the entry of all foreigners into the country, making it the first country to shut its borders completely in response to the potentially more contagious Omicron coronavirus variant, and said it would also reintroduce counter-terrorism phone-tracking technology in order to contain the spread of the variant.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement that the ban, pending government approval, would last 14 days.

Israel approved barring entry to foreign nationals and the use of controversial technology for contact tracing as part of its efforts to clamp down on a new coronavirus variant.

It also approved use of the Shin Bet internal security agency’s controversial phone monitoring technology to perform contact tracing of individuals confirmed with the new omicron variant of coronavirus in Israel.-Reuters, AP

International

Bangladesh, Pakistan, Mauritius, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Maldives suspend flights with South African countries over Omicron

Bangladesh on Saturday suspended travel from South Africa immediately, joining a growing list of countries banning travel to the country amid fears of the spread of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant, first detected there.

Pakistan on Saturday imposed a complete travel ban on six African countries and Hong Kong in the wake of the discovery of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant, first detected in South Africa.

Mauritius will suspend all commercial passenger flights from South Africa from Nov. 28 due to the new coronavirus variant Omicron, its foreign affairs ministry said on Saturday.

Indonesia will ban the arrival of travellers who have been in eight African countries, to curb the spread of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19, an official document showed on Sunday.

Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Interior halted flights from and to Malawi, Zambia, Madagascar, Angola, Seychelles, Mauritius and the Comoros Islands on Sunday owing to concerns related to the spread of the new COVID-19 strain, state news agency SPA reported on Twitter.

Travellers will not be allowed into Maldives from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Lesotho and Eswatini, the health ministry said in a statement. -PTI, Reuters

National

New COVID-19 variant forces postponement of final two ODIs between hosts SA and Netherlands

The three-match ODI series between South Africa and Netherlands was on Saturday postponed amid concerns over a new variant of COVID-19 in the country.

The first ODI, part of the World Cup Super League, was abandoned due to heavy rain in Centurion on Friday. The next two matches were also scheduled at the same venue on November 28 and December 1. -PTI

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