The Tamil Nadu government on Sunday directed district administrations to intensify surveillance and carry out field tests amid reports of presence of new ‘Omicron’ strain of coronavirus abroad, and said it was significantly more transmissible than the Delta variant.
In a letter to the district officials shared with the media, state Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan said the Union Health Secretary wrote to him about the reports of emergence of a new variant and directed the states to be alert.
District Collectors were apprised about the instructions while field level inspections were carried out at the Chennai airport by Health Minister and senior department officials.
The new variant (Omicron) has ‘immune escape potential’ and possible transmissibility advantage compared to Delta variant, and subsequent transmission of Omicron in South East Asia region, including India was ‘high’, he stated in the letter.
Radhakrishnan warned that in case of another surge of COVID-19 driven by ‘Omicron’ variant, the consequences would be ‘severe’ and the overall risk related to the novel variant Omicron for South East Asia region was ‘rated to be high”. He stressed that enhancing surveillance and field level investigations, use of facial masks, physical distancing, and hand hygiene remain key to reducing transmission of Covid-19 and even Omicron. He also said authorities should ensure that mitigation plans are put in place to maintain essential health services and necessary health care resources are in place to respond to potential surges.
The officials were instructed to accelerate vaccination coverage, especially among priority population targeted for COVID vaccination. “I would like to inform that in light of various reports of emerging new variant of concern and the anxiety among people, the situation has been shared not only to sensitize the districts on the emerging scenario but also that we are adequately prepared and are ready to tackle such public health challenges..,” the top health official said.