Coronavirus updates | November 29, 2021

A man helps his son wear mask at a COVID-19 test centre at KSRTC bus stand in Bengaluru, November 28, 2021. The Karnataka government has decided to intensify surveillance and increase RT-PCR tests at bus stands and railway stations following reports of new variant Omicron in several countries and new clusters of COVID-19 infections in different districts   | Photo Credit: PTI

The Union Health Ministry on Sunday revised guidelines mandating that all international passengers entering India have to submit 14-day travel details and upload a negative RT-PCR test report on the Air Suvidha portal before the journey. The new guidelines will come into effect from December 1. The RT-PCR report to be uploaded should have been conducted within 72 hours prior to the journey.

Cautioning that overall testing and the proportion of RT-PCR tests have declined in some States, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan on Sunday directed that “ample testing infrastructure need to be operationalised to tackle any surge due to Omicron, the mutated COVID virus”. The Ministry has written to the State Governments stating that in the absence of sufficient testing, it is extremely difficult to determine the true level of infection spread.

Editorial | Scale up supplies: On Omicron variant

Lead | What the Omicron variant means for India

Read | More cases of Omicron variant pop up as world rushes to learn more

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:


COVID-19 pandemic not over, says expert

In the wake of the emergence of new coronavirus variant Omicron, persons with co-morbidities and the older age group need to be monitored and, in general, the vaccination of children is the next agenda and India should plan for a booster vaccine dose in the second half of 2022, although two-dose vaccination of the target population is still the priority, said Professor G. Padmanaban (IISc, Bengaluru), senior science innovation adviser, Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), Department of Biotechnology, in an interview.

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Bharat Biotech commence Covaxin exports



Six cases of Omicron variant identified in Scotland

Six cases of the COVID-19 Omicron variant of concern have been identified in Scotland, the Scottish government said on Monday, adding that public health officials were working to establish the circumstances of the cases.

"Public Health Scotland will undertake enhanced contact tracing in all cases," Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said. "This will help establish the origin of the virus and any further individuals they have come into contact with in recent weeks." -Reuters


Observing COVID-19 protocols, inoculation of teachers among guidelines for reopening primary schools

Observing COVID-19 appropriate behaviour, vaccination of teachers and school staff are among the protocols that have to be followed in schools, according to the Maharashtra health department's guidelines ahead of the reopening of schools on December 1 for Classes 1 to 4 in rural classes and Classes 1 to 7 in urban areas.

In-person classes in primary schools of the State have remained closed since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

In a letter to health officers of all districts and civic bodies, the State health services director said COVID-19 appropriate behaviour, like maintaining a distance of six feet, mandatory wearing of face masks and washing hands must be followed while opening schools. -PTI

Madhya Pradesh

Omicron scare: Health officials searching from Botswana woman who visited M.P.

In the wake of concerns over the potentially more contagious new 'Omicron' variant of coronavirus detected in some countries, Madhya Pradesh health authorities have launched a search for a woman from Bostwana who, as per government records, visited Jabalpur on November 18, an official said on November 29.

“An official from the Bostwana Embassy told us over phone that she is in isolation at a military organisation in Jabalpur. We have asked him to share her mobile phone number and her local contact,” Jabalpur Chief Medical and Health Officer Dr Ratnesh Kurariya said. -PTI


7 children in Goa juvenile detention centre contract COVID-19

Seven children at a state-run juvenile detention centre in Goa have tested positive for coronavirus, a senior official said on Monday.

All protocols were being followed and a team of doctors was monitoring the infected children's health regularly at the facility, located on the outskirts of the state capital Panaji, North Goa District Collector Ajit Roy told PTI.

"There is nothing to worry," he said.

The seven children from the 'Apna Ghar' juvenile detention centre tested positive for the coronavirus infection over the weekend, he said. -PTI


First suspected case of Omicron variant of COVID-19 detected in Switzerland

The first probable case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has been detected in Switzerland, the government said late on Sunday, as the country tightened its entry restrictions to check its spread.

The case relates to a person who returned to Switzerland from South Africa around a week ago, the Federal Office for Public Health said on Twitter.

Testing will clarify the situation in the coming days, it added. -Reuters


Resident in Maharashtra tests positive for coronavirus after returning from South Africa: civic official

A man who returned from South Africa to Dombivali in Thane district of Maharashtra recently has tested positive for coronavirus, a Kalyan-Dombivali Municipal Corporation (KDMC) official said on November 28.

It is not confirmed whether the patient was carrying the Omicron variant of coronavirus, which was identified as the variant of concern by the WHO, the official said.

The man had travelled from Cape Town to Dombivali on November 24.

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Joyful reunions as Malaysia-Singapore land border reopens

Malaysians working in Singapore held joyful reunions with their loved ones after returning to their homeland on Monday following the partial reopening of a land border that has been shuttered for nearly two years due to the pandemic.

Buses ferried fully vaccinated passengers across the Causeway Bridge that connects the island of Singapore with the Malaysian peninsula, with strict measures in place including pre-departure and on-arrival COVID-19 tests.

Malaysian Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin tweeted that a COVID-19 case was detected during the screening in southern Johor State, but didn't elaborate. “As we safely reopen our borders, there will be positive cases at points of entry. Risk assessment, isolation and monitoring close contacts will become the norm," he said. -AP


India reports 8,309 new COVID-19 cases; active cases decline to 1,03,859

With 8,309 people testing positive for the coronavirus infection in a day, India's tally of COVID-19 cases rose to 3,45,80,832, while the active cases have declined to 1,03,859, the lowest in 544 days, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Monday.

The death toll has climbed to 4,68,790 with 236 daily fatalities, according to the data updated at 8 am.

The daily rise in new coronavirus infections has been below 20,000 for 52 straight days and less than 50,000 daily new cases have been reported for 155 consecutive days now.

The active cases have declined to 1,03,859 comprising 0.30% 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


Japan to bar new foreign arrivals over virus variant: PM

Japan will reinstate tough border measures, barring all new foreign arrivals over the Omicron Covid variant, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced Monday, just weeks after a softening of strict entry rules.

"We will ban the (new) entry of foreigners from around the world starting from November 30th," Kishida told reporters, in a decision that reverses a measure to allow some business travellers and students into Japan. -AFP

New Zealand

New Zealand to ease COVID-19 measures this week despite Omicron threat - PM

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday the country will move into a system of living with the COVID-19 virus later this week despite the new Omicron variant posing a fresh health threat to the world.

There were no cases of the Omicron variant in New Zealand at this stage but the developing global situation showed why a cautious approach was needed at the borders, she said.

"Omicron is a reminder of the risk that still exists at our borders," Ms. Ardern said at the news conference.

The emergence of the omicron variant hasn't changed New Zealand's plans to ease restrictions in Auckland and move the nation into a new, more open phase of its pandemic response, she said.

Bars, restaurants and gyms in Auckland can reopen from late Thursday, ending a coronavirus lockdown that began in August. -Reuters, AP


Not yet clear if Omicron more transmissible, causes severe disease, says WHO

The World Health Organization has said it is “not yet clear” whether the newly-detected coronavirus variant Omicron is more transmissible or causes more severe disease compared to other variants, including the highly-transmissible and globally prevalent Delta variant.

“There is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with Omicron are different from those from other variants,” the WHO said, It added that initial reported infections were among university studies -- younger individuals who tend to have more mild disease -- but understanding the level of severity of the Omicron variant will take days to several weeks. -PTI


Awaiting nod on booster dose

The State has written to the Centre seeking permission to vaccinate health workers with a booster dose in the light of clusters being reported in parts of the State even as the number of tests will be increased.

Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said: “The Centre has to take a call for the entire country. Once we receive permission we will go ahead.”

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Government advises schools, colleges to postpone social, cultural events

With COVID-19 clusters detected in colleges and schools in Mysuru, Dharwad, and Bengaluru, and fears of a resurgence with the emergence of the Omicron strain, the Government, on Sunday issued fresh measures that educational institutions should take.

In a circular, the Department of Health and Family Welfare advised educational institutions across the State to postpone social and cultural events for two months. The advisory stated that conferences, seminars, academic events, etc., in educational institutions, wherever possible, may be postponed. “Alternatively, it could be conducted in hybrid mode with minimal physical attendance and with more persons attending through virtual mode,” it noted.

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Egypt authorizes Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for 12 to 15 year-olds

Egypt authorized on Sunday Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 12-15, the cabinet said in a statement.

The step effectively lowers the minimum age of eligibility to receive the two-shot vaccine in Egypt, which was 15 years old previously. -Reuters


Two cases of Omicron variant detected in Canada, government says

Two cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, first detected in Southern Africa last week, have been confirmed in Canada, provincial health officials said on Sunday.

The cases were reported in two people who recently travelled to Nigeria, the Ontario government said in a statement. -Reuters

South Africa

WHO criticizes travel bans on southern African countries

The World Health Organization on Sunday urged countries around the world not to impose flight bans on southern African nations due to concerns over the new omicron variant.

WHO's regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, called on countries to follow science and international health regulations in order to avoid using travel restrictions. -AP

South Africa

South Africa to remain on lowest lockdown level; calls for immediate end to travel ban

South Africa will remain on the lowest 'Level One' of its five-level lockdown strategy to fight the Covid-19 pandemic despite the global panic around the detection of the Omicron variant in the country, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Sunday.

Mr. Ramaphosa also called on more than 20 countries that have imposed travel bans to and from South Africa and its neighbours to immediately end the ban to avoid further harm to the economies of these countries, which have already been battered by the pandemic.

“In taking the decision not to impose further restrictions at this stage, we considered the fact that when we encountered previous waves of infection, vaccines were not widely available and far fewer people were vaccinated,” Mr. Ramaphosa said in a national broadcast. -PTI


Countries suspend flights with South Africa over Omicron concern

Morocco will ban all inbound international passenger flights for two weeks starting November 29 due to concerns over the Omicron COVID-19 variant, the Moroccan government said in a statement on Sunday.

The Philippines on Sunday further tightened border controls to keep out the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, adding seven European countries to a travel ban that initially covered seven African nations.

U.S. health officials on Sunday said they were preparing for the likely appearance of the new Omicron COVID-19 variant, with restrictions set to begin on Monday against travelers from eight southern African countries.

Rwanda has suspended direct flights to and from southern Africa due to the new Omicron COVID-19 variant, the Prime Minister's office said on Sunday.

Israel on Sunday 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. -Reuters, AP


Protests in Austria over compulsory vaccination

Tens of thousands of Austrians rallied this weekend to protest against the government’s introduction of compulsory vaccination — the first EU country to do so — as the Chancellor insisted on Sunday that the move would represent “a minor interference” compared to the alternatives.

One of the largest demonstrations was held in the southern city of Graz, where police said late Saturday that around 25,000 people had gathered in a rally that remained mostly peaceful.

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Uttar Pradesh

International passengers arriving at Lucknow airport to undergo RT-PCR test, home quarantine

All international passengers arriving at the Lucknow airport will have to undergo RT-PCR test and eight-day home quarantine, the district administration said on Sunday following the emergence of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19.

The Lucknow district administration has laid emphasis on safety measures and issued directions for adherence to the COVID-19 protocols at the domestic and international terminals. -PTI

The Netherlands

13 air passengers in Netherlands found infected with new variant

Dutch health authorities said on Sunday they had discovered at least 13 cases of the new Omicron strain among passengers on two flights from South Africa.

The infections were found after 61 out of 600 travellers on the two KLM planes tested positive for Covid-19 on arrival at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport on Friday.

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Third Omicron case detected in U.K., face masks compulsory from Tuesday

A third case of the Omicron coronavirus variant has been detected in the U.K., the Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said on Sunday.

The latest case, like the two others, is linked to travel to southern Africa, where the variant was identified, but the individual is no longer in the U.K.

However, the UKHSA revealed that the individual spent time in the Westminster area of central London before departure and also warned that it is “very likely” more cases of the new potentially highly infectious variant will be detected over the coming days as a result of “focussed contact tracing”. -PTI


Lakshadweep admin revises travel restrictions in view of Omicron

In view of a new coronavirus variant Omicron being reported from various parts of the world, the Lakshadweep administration on Sunday revised the travel restrictions and quarantine norms in the island archipelago.

This new variant is reported to have a significantly high number of mutations and thus, has serious public health implications for the country, the administration said in an order.

It said that anyone wishing to visit the island archipelago shall carry with them a negative RT-PCR test report obtained within 48 hours of the travel and submit the same at the entry and exit points. -PTI

(With input from Agencies)

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