Amid a worldwide scare against the latest coronavirus variant Omicron, Punjab Deputy Chief Minister O P Soni on Monday ordered strict monitoring of passengers landing at state airports from abroad. The state Health Department has also decided to enhance the Covid testing, surveillance and genome sequencing facilities in the state, said officials here.
The B.1.1.529 Covid variant or Omicron, first detected in South Africa last week, was designated by the World Health Organisation as a ‘variant of concern’, the health body’s top category for worrying coronavirus variants.
Punjab deputy CM Soni on Monday reviewed the preparations for tackling the third possible wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Soni asked health officials to ensure strict monitoring of overseas passengers, especially coming from South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel, an official release said.
The countries designated as “at-risk” include European countries, the UK, South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel. Soni, who also holds the portfolio of Health and Family Welfare, directed concerned officials to immediately start preparations to deal with any possible exigency, besides initiating the procurement of necessary medicines and equipment in this regard.
Health and Family Welfare Secretary Vikas Garg apprised the deputy chief minister of various measures being taken by the state Health Department to monitor passengers as per the guidelines of the Union Health Ministry.
State health officials, meanwhile, said the COVID-19 testing will be increased to 40,000 per day. At present, the coronavirus testing was in the range of 20,000 to 25,000.
The Health Department will also step up genome sequencing of the COVID-19 positive samples, said Punjab’s COVID-19 nodal officer Dr Rajesh Bhaskar. The Health Department sends COVID-19 samples for genome sequencing to a lab at the government medical college, Patiala.