Omicron scare: Karnataka requires institutional isolation for visitors from high-risk countries


The Karnataka government has decided to step up surveillance measures in light of the recent reports of a new coronavirus variant known as Omicron (B.1.1529) in several countries and new clusters of Covid-19 infection in various districts.

The health and family welfare department has instructed officials to track and conduct “repeat RT-PCR testing” for those arriving from high-risk countries where cases with the Omnicron variant have been discovered, as recommended by the Covid-19 technical advisory committee (TAC) to the state government.

“All international travellers from South Africa, Botswana, and Hong Kong who arrived in the last 15 days (since November 12) should be tracked and subjected to repeat RT-PCR testing,” said T K Anil Kumar, principal secretary for health and family welfare.

Furthermore, those who have tested positive for the infection will be placed in “institutional isolation” for ten days, with their samples being sent for whole genome sequencing (WGS) “on a fast-track basis.”

The state government had previously decided to “closely track” the contacts of those coming from these countries. The decision was made in light of the Union Health Ministry’s directive to thoroughly screen and test travellers arriving from these countries.

For clusters at Bengaluru School and Dharwad Medical College, TAC recommends containment measures.

The TAC recommended enhanced containment measures a few days after new Covid-19 clusters were discovered at a private medical college in Dharwad and a couple of Bengaluru residential schools, instructing officials to ensure “strict compliance.”

While it has been mandated that samples from those who test positive in these clusters be sent for WGS as soon as possible, separate nodal officers have been appointed for overall general supervision and coordination of containment measures at The International School in Dommasandra, Bengaluru, and SDM College of Medical Sciences and Hospital (SDMSH) in Dharwad.

“Because SDMSH is a health-care facility, we have recommended that the nodal officer be appointed from the Department of Internal Medicine or Respiratory Medicine to ensure that all standard treatment and public-health protocols are followed at all times, 24 hours a day,” a senior TAC member told The Indian Express.

Karnataka reviews Covid-19 testing targets on a daily basis.

The TAC has also recommended a 20,000 increase in daily testing numbers in order to “strengthen Covid-19 surveillance” across the state. The goal has been raised to 80,000 from 60,000 previously.

“While targeted testing of ILI (Influenza-like Illness), SARI (Severe Acute Respiratory Infection) cases, their contacts, and high-risk groups will continue,” the TAC member explained, “random testing of selected groups will be conducted every two weeks.”

Meanwhile, district administrations have been instructed to ensure that up to 50% of such samples come from the district headquarters, with the remainder coming from rural areas, with 10% of the total samples coming from children.

According to the revised targets, the Bengaluru municipal area (BBMP) will see a daily increase of 5,000 tests, while other districts will see a total increase of 15,0000 tests.

In the meantime, 322 new cases were reported in the state on Saturday, with a 0.34 percent test positivity rate.

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