Passengers arriving at Mumbai airport from South Africa, where a new coronavirus variant of concern has been detected, will be quarantined, the city’s mayor said today. Genome sequencing of passengers, if found positive, will also be done, the mayor said.
Genome is like an instruction manual that contains information about the make-up of an organism, and genome sequencing is a technique that reads and interprets genetic information.
The move for genome sequencing amid worries over the new variant, called Omicron, comes after several nations announced flight bans on South Africa arrivals.
“There are concerns in Mumbai about the new variant of coronavirus. Genome sequencing of (positive) passengers coming from South Africa will be done. There is no restriction on outbound flights in any way. But this decision has been taken keeping in view past experience,” Mumbai mayor Kishori Pednekar said today.
“There is an increased risk of COVID-19 in other nations, so those coming from abroad will have to undergo genome test. I request everyone to maintain social distancing and wear masks so that this new menace can be stopped,” Ms Pednekar said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with top officials to review the COVID-19 and vaccination situation in the country this morning amid concerns over the Omicron strain. The variant – first detected in South Africa this week, and since reported from Botswana, Hong Kong, Israel, and Belgium – is believed to have 50 mutations, including over 30 on the spike protein and 10 on the receptor binding domain.
The spike protein is the target of most current COVID-19 vaccines and is what the virus uses to unlock access to our body’s cells. Researchers are still trying to confirm whether this makes it more transmissible or lethal than earlier variants, and if existing vaccines can protect against the strain.
Dutch health authorities said that dozens of people who arrived in Amsterdam on two flights from South Africa yesterday were likely infected with COVID-19, and they are conducting further testing to see if people are infected with the recently discovered Omicron variant, news agency Reuters reported.