Prime Minister Narendra Modi was briefed about the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus on Saturday, November 27, and he asked officials to review the plans to ease international travel restrictions in light of the "emerging new evidence". At a meeting to review the COVID-19 situation, Modi was briefed about the global trends on coronavirus cases and officials highlighted that countries across the world have experienced multiple COVID-19 surges since the onset of the pandemic, a Prime Minister's Office (PMO) statement said.
During the meeting, the officials briefed PM Modi about the new variant of concern, Omicron, along with its characteristics and the impact seen in various countries, the PMO said, adding that its implications for India were also discussed.
Modi spoke about the need to be proactive in light of the new variant. He said that in view of the new threat, people need to be more cautious and take proper precautions like masking up and maintaining social distance, according to the PMO.
The Prime Minister highlighted the need for monitoring all international arrivals, their testing as per guidelines, with a specific focus on countries identified as 'at risk'. He also asked the officials to "review plans for easing of international travel restrictions in light of the emerging new evidence", the statement said. The meeting was attended by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan and NITI Aayog member (health) Dr V K Paul, among others.
The new COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529, first detected from South Africa, was designated as a variant of concern by the World Health Organisation, which named it Omicron. A variant of concern is the WHO's top category of worrying coronavirus variants. "This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs. The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa," the WHO said in a press release. The variant, first reported to WHO from South Africa on Wednesday, has also been identified in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel.