Panaji (Goa) [India], November 28 (ANI): Amid rising concern about a new COVID-19 variant 'Omicron' first detected in South Africa, Jharkhand Health Minister Banna Gupta on Saturday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to suspend international flights that were recently opened.
Speaking to ANI, the minister said, "I appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to halt international flights in view of the new COVID-19 variant Omicron. Important steps should be taken. It is being said that Omicron is more dangerous than previous variants."
He further said that there is also a need for the country to stay prepared in case the variant spreads in India.
This comes after the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday named the new COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529, which has been detected in South Africa, as 'Omicron' and alarmed the siren among countries of the new variant.
The Civil Aviation Ministry recently announced that India will resume scheduled regular international flights from December 15, nearly 20 months after these flights were suspended to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had suspended operations of scheduled international commercial passenger services to and from India with effect from March 23, 2020, due to COVID-19.
The minister also said, "Before this variant we have seen four more other variants of COVID-19, even the country has observed the second wave and many have lost their lives. This fifth variant that is known Omicron has been detected in South Africa, Israel, Hong Kong."
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister on Saturday chaired a comprehensive meeting which lasted for almost 2 hours to review the public health preparedness and vaccination-related situation for COVID-19.
As per an official statement issued by Prime Minister Office, officials briefed the PM about the new Variant of Concern 'Omicron' along with its characteristics and the impact seen in various countries.
Its implications for India were also discussed. The PM spoke about the need to be proactive in light of the new variant. The PM highlighted the need for monitoring all international arrivals, their testing as per guidelines, with a specific focus on countries identified 'at risk'. He also asked officials to review plans for easing of international travel restrictions in light of the emerging new evidence. (ANI)