Amid mounting global concerns over new coronavirus strain 'Omicron', Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday stressed the need to be proactive and directed officials to review plans for easing of international travel restrictions in light of the "emerging new evidence".
Modi, who chaired a comprehensive meeting to review the situation related to COVID-19 and vaccination in the country, was briefed by top health officials about 'Omicron', described by WHO as a "variant of concern", with its characteristics and the impact seen in various countries.
Its implications for India were also discussed during the meeting, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said in a statement.
A World Health Organisation panel has named the new COVID strain 'omicron' and classified it as a highly transmissible variant of concern, the same category that includes the delta variant.
During the meeting which lasted for about two hours, Prime Minister Modi spoke about the need to be proactive in light of the new variant and urged people to be more cautious and take proper precautions like masking up and maintaining social distance, the PMO said.
A World Health Organisation panel has named the new COVID strain 'omicron' and classified it as a highly transmissible variant of concern, the same category that includes the delta variantThe Prime Minister highlighted the need for monitoring all international arrivals, their testing as per guidelines, with a specific focus on countries identified 'at risk'.
He also asked "officials to review plans for easing of international travel restrictions in light of the emerging new evidence", the statement said.
Modi's directive to officials comes a day after the Civil Aviation Ministry announced the resumption of scheduled international flights to and from India from December 15 after 20 months of coronavirus-induced suspension.
India's decision to resume scheduled international passenger flights has come at a time when various countries such as Britain, Germany, Singapore, Israel, France and Italy have restricted air travel from southern Africa where the cases of new coronavirus variant of serious health implications have been reported.
However, the countries deemed 'at risk' of COVID-19 by the Union Health Ministry will be allowed to operate only a certain percentage of their pre-Covid scheduled flights, the Aviation Ministry stated.
The Centre on Thursday asked all states and union territories to conduct rigorous screening and testing of all international travellers coming from or transiting through South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana, where the variant has been detected.