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Omicron threat: Centre to review decision on resumption of international Flights

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In the wake of the emergence of the new COVID variant ‘Omicron’, the center rethinks its decision to resume the scheduled commercial international passenger services, especially from countries identified as ‘at risk’. 

The decision to review the SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) on testing and surveillance of incoming passengers was also decided by the ministry. 

The decision was made after an urgent meeting chaired by the Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla and attended by various stakeholders, an official spokesperson said.

The meeting was held a day after a high-level review by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the new COVID-19 variant of concern ‘Omicron’.

After 20 months-long suspensions of international commercial flights, the government only recently on November 26 announced the resumption of scheduled international commercial flights from December 15.

The home ministry spokesperson said that the overall global situation in the wake of the Omicron virus was comprehensively reviewed and various preventive measures in place and to be further strengthened were discussed at the meeting chaired by the home secretary.

The spokesperson further informed that the government is to review the decision on the effective date of resumption of scheduled commercial international passenger services and the Standard Operating Procedure on testing and surveillance of incoming international passengers, especially for those countries identified ‘at risk’ category as per evolving global scenario. 

The B.1.1.529 variant of COVID was first reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) from South Africa on November 24 and has also been identified in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong, and Israel.

It was on Friday that the WHO designated the potentially contagious variant as a “Variant of Concern” and it was named ‘Omicron’. A variant of concern is the WHO’s top category of worrying COVID-19 variants 

In light of the same, The government has decided to further strengthen the genomic surveillance for variants, and Airport Health Officials (APHOs) and Port Health Officials (PHOs) will be sensitized for strict supervision of testing protocol at airports and seaports.

A closer watch on the emerging pandemic situation within the country will be maintained, the spokesperson said.

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