India delayed the curbs on international flights when the first Covid wave had hit the country last year, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted this morning in a sharp reminder to the central government amid a scare over ‘Omicron’ – a new variant that has been found in at least 13 countries. In a stark warning on Monday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said the new variant poses a “very high” global risk and could have “severe consequences” where there are surges.
Making an urgent appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mr Kejriwal today tweeted in Hindi: “Several countries have restricted flights from Omicron-affected nations. Why are we delaying?” Israel and Japan have announced massive travel restrictions to check the spread of the new variant.
“In the first wave too, we had delayed the ban on flights. Most international flights land in Delhi….and the city gets affected the most. PM Sahib, please stop the flights,” he further said.
The Delhi Chief Minister also shared a post from news agency ANI on a report that a 39-year-old man, who returned from South Africa, tested positive for COVID-19 in Chandigarh. Two people he came in contact with also contracted the virus. The samples will be sent for genome sequencing.
Mr Kejriwal will hold a review meeting today over the preparedness of hospitals in the city amid the new variant scare. Also, this is not the first time that he has raised the issue of a ban on flights with the Prime Minister.
In a letter to PM Modi over the weekend, he had urged to “immediately stop flights” from the affected countries. “Any delay could be very harmful,” he had said.
The Uddhav Thackeray government in Maharashtra has also decided to request the central government to suspend flights from the 12 countries where the new variant has been found.
The Maharashtra Chief Minister is expected to speak to the Prime Minister for stricter guidelines for international travelers.
The WHO has urged countries to prepare by accelerating vaccinations and put mitigation plans in place to maintain essential health services. “Omicron has an unprecedented number of spike mutations, some of which are concerning for their potential impact on the trajectory of the pandemic,” WHO said in a statement.
In India, the government has announced certain entry rules for those arriving from the affected nations. Every international passenger coming to India has to fill a self-declaration form and show a negative RT-PCR test report.