India tightens COVID-19 testing for tourists amid new variant concerns

india tightens covid 19 testing for tourists amid new variant concerns

The Health Ministry Thursday issued orders to states that international travelers coming from and transiting through South Africa, Botswana, and Hong Kong must be subjected to rigorous screening and testing due to multiple cases of COVID-19 variant B.1.1529 reported in these countries.

Rajesh Bhushan, Health Secretary of India, said that India’s National Centre for Disease Control has reported to the Union Health Ministry that multiple cases of the B.1.1529 variant of COVID-19 have been reported in the southern African countries of South Africa and Botswana, as well as in Hong Kong. Mr. Bhushan reported that the variant is said to have a significantly high number of mutations, and therefore has profound public health implications for the country given the recently relaxed visa restrictions and opening up of the country to international travel.

These countries are part of the category named ‘at risk’ countries for international travelers arriving in India. Travelers from the ‘at risk’ countries will be subjected to rigorous screening and testing. Their contacts will also be closely tracked and tested as per the Union Health Ministry’s guidelines for this category.

The UK has banned flights from six African countries and advised returning British travelers from those destinations to be quarantined. The UK Health Security Agency said the new variant had a spike protein that was dramatically different from the one on which most COVID-19 vaccines are based.