Omicron: Why easing of international travel curbs has come under review | 10 points
Unless the flights are absolutely restricted from the affected countries, the pressure of testing each and every passenger coming from these countries will mount on states. For example, Karnataka said more than 1,000 people have come from South Africa and all of them have been tested.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday directed government officials to review the plans for relaxing international travel restrictions amid worldwide apprehension over the new Omicron variant of Covid-19. Several countries have isolated South Africa, where the new variant has been identified first. This happens a day after India decided to resume regular international flight services from December 15.
Here are 10 points to know regarding international travel after Omicron has been identified:
1. South Africa, Botswana, Israel, Hong Kong reported cases of this new variant. On Saturday, the United Kingdom too confirmed two cases of this new variant.
2. India has already put all these countries under "at-risk" list, which means people arriving from these countries or transiting through these countries will have to undergo rigorous screening upon arrival in India.
3. As far as India's international flight resumption plan is concerned, the civil aviation ministry so far decided that 100% resumption will not take place in these "at-risk" countries. India will resume 75% of services in countries that have air bubble agreements with New Delhi and 50% in those which do not have the agreement.
4. But this was decided before countries across the world started restricting flights from South Africa. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday urged PM Modi to stop flights from the affected countries, the number of which is only increasing.
5. Unless the flights are absolutely restricted from the affected countries, the pressure of testing each and every passenger coming from these countries will mount on states. For example, Karnataka said more than 1,000 people have come from South Africa and all of them have been tested. Around 584 passengers came to Bengaluru from 10 high-risk nations. Two of them have tested Covid positive, but of Delta, not the new variant.
6. Imposing a blanket ban again on international flights at a time when the pandemic-hit industry is trying to recover is a tough choice for countries.
7. With the increasing threats of Omicron, inter-state travel restrictions are also making a comeback as Karnataka has again made negative RT-PCR reports mandatory for people travelling to the state from Kerala and Maharashtra.
8. The World Health Organization has appealed to countries in the South-East Asia region to scale up surveillance.
9. Top US immunologist Dr Anthony Fauci observed that a lot of travel is involved in the spread of Omicron. Though there is no indication that the variant is present in the United States, anything is possible, Fauci said.
10. A survey in India has revealed that the majority of people want the government to reconsider the resumption of international flights from December 15 amid the Omicron scare.