“Stop Flights From Countries Affected By New Variant”: Arvind Kejriwal To PM


Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has called for a meeting on Monday (File)

New Delhi:

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to stop all flights from countries reporting cases of the new coronavirus strain – B.1.1.529, or Omicron.

“I urge Honourable PM to stop flights from those countries which are affected by new variant. With great difficulty, our country has recovered from Corona. We should do everything possible to prevent this new variant from entering India,” Mr Kejriwal tweeted Saturday morning.

Yesterday Mr Kejriwal tweeted to say he had called for a meeting of medical and scientific experts on Monday in light of “the threat from (the) new Covid variant from African countries“.

These experts, he said, would make a presentation to the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA), he said, to suggest steps to protect the national capital from the B.1.1.529 strain.

“In view of the threat from (the) new COVID-19 variant from African countries, we have requested experts to make a presentation to DDMA on Monday, and suggest what steps we should take. We will take all steps necessary to protect you and your family,” the Chief Minister tweeted.

The Prime Minister is chairing a meeting with top officials this morning to review the Covid situation.

The centre, last night, said scheduled international passenger flights to and from India would be allowed to return to pre-Covid frequencies from December 15.

Services to certain ‘at risk’ countries, however, remain restricted. These include the United Kingdom and other European countries, South Africa, Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong.

The government has also asked states and union territories to carry out rigorous screening of passengers from countries reporting the Omicron strain.

Several countries have already stopped or limited flights to and from southern African nations. These include the UK, the United States and Israel, as well as some mainland European countries.

The WHO has called for caution and advocated a “risk-based and scientific approach”.

The Omicron strain was first detected in South Africa this week and has since been reported in Botswana, Israel, Hong Kong and Belgium, sparking fears of another wave of infections.

The B.1.1.529 strain has been labelled a ‘variant of concern’ by the World Health Organization (WHO), which renamed it Omicron. The ‘variant of concern’ tag puts it in the high-alert category, with the globally dominant Delta, plus its weaker rivals Alpha, Beta and Gamma.

Omicron is believed to have 50 mutations (significantly more than any other variant known so far), with over 30 on the spike protein and 10 on the receptor binding domain. 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.