New Heavily-Mutated COVID Variant: Odisha To Impose Restrictions On Travellers From 3 Countries

Bhubaneswar: In view of the emergence of a new variant of COVID-19– B.1.1.529, restrictions will be imposed on people coming from three countries – South Africa, Botswana and Hongkong, Director of Medical Education and Training (DMET) Rama Raman Mohanty said on Friday.

“The passengers will be screened at the Biju Patnaik International Airport here to curb the possible transmission of the virus. They will have to undergo the COVID-19 test, and if necessary, will remain under isolation for 10 days,” he said.

If anyone is found positive, samples will be sent to detect the variant, he added.

Notably, the Centre on Thursday asked states and Union Territories to be cautious about international passengers travelling from or through these countries in view of the new COVID variant detected in South Africa.

According to the UK Health Security Agency, the new coronavirus variant (B.1.1.529) spreading in South Africa might make vaccines less effective, as it has a spike protein dramatically different to the one in the original coronavirus.

“This is the most significant variant we have encountered to date and urgent research is underway to learn more about its transmissibility, severity and vaccine-susceptibility,” UKHSA Chief Executive Jenny Harries was quoted as saying by Reuters.

On Thursday, South African scientists had revealed about the new COVID-19 variant, which was found in small numbers. “The variant contains more than 30 mutations to the spike protein, the component of the virus that binds to cells,” said South African scientist Tulio de Oliveira said in a media briefing.

The variant has also been detected in Botswana and Hong Kong.

Director of the London-based UCL Genetics Institute Francois Balloux suggested it might have come from a chronic infection of an immuno-compromised person, who may possibly be an untreated HIV/AIDS patient.

The UK has banned flights from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Namibia, Eswatini and Zimbabwe.

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