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Covid data (India), August 03, 2022: Vaccination Today: 37,10,328; Vaccination Day Before: 23,49,651; Total Vaccination Doses: 2,04,84,30,732; Samples Tested on Aug 02: 4,64,919; Total Samples Tested: 87,63,57,530; Total Cases: 4,40,67,144 (New 17,135); Total Deaths: 5,26,477 (New 47); New Deaths, States: Delhi 5; Maharashtra 5; Rajasthan 5 - India Travel Times.Com   [Estd: 1998]       * * *    Travel, More Travel, Travel Means A Million Things     * * *    
Two South Africans test positive for covid at Bengaluru airport

Genomic tests on the two South Africans' samples will take 48 hours. The UK has confirmed two cases of Omicron strain. The US, UK and European Union have banned travel from S Africa and several other affected countries. The stocks are crashing the world over in apprehension of slump in travel industry again.

The SA studies show the new covid transmits more widely and is highly infective by evading the immune system more efficiently. The mutated spike protein helps cell penetration easier too. Existing vaccines may become less effective. But, significantly, the SA institute said “no unusual symptoms” have been found. The silver lining is: Masking, social distancing, good ventilation and hand washing still hold good as the fundamental character and function of the virus will remain unchanged!

NEW DELHI, Nov 27: Two South African nationals tested positive for covid on arrival at the Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru on Saturday. Both have been sent to quarantine centres. More tests are under way to determine if they are infected with the new highly mutated covid variant named as Omicron strain by the WHO. The result was expecetd in 48 hours.

The new variant is more transmissible than the highly infectious Delta variant, which had ravaged the whole of India in the months of April and May taking a heavy toll. The vaccines available are thought to be less effective against the new covid.

It is said to be rapidly spreading in Gauteng province of South Africa, especially the busy Johannesburg and Pretoria. The South African Genomics Surveillance institute had identified the new B.1.1.529 on Monday. Its spike protein mutations are feared to be able to transmit more widely and be highly infective by evading the immune system more efficiently. The mutated spike protein also makes the cell penetration easier. That would make the existing vaccines less effective in containing infection. Significantly, the SA institute said “no unusual symptoms” have been found. Masking, social distancing, good ventilation and hand washing still hold good as the fundamental character and behaviour of the virus will remain unchanged.

UK confirms two cases

The United Kingdom also confirmed on Saturday two cases of the new covid strain, linked to travel from southern Africa. The presence of the new covid mutant has been reported from Botswana, Israel, Belgium and Hong Kong also, apart from South Africa.

The UK banned flights from South Africa and five other southern African countries and announced that anyone who had recently arrived from those countries would be asked to take a coronavirus test. Japan also announced similar ban.

Several countries have reintroduced travel bans, especially on South Africa, where the new variant was detected first. Joining a growing list of countries imposing travel ban, the United States announced on Friday it will restrict travel for non-US citizens from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi starting Monday.

What Biden said

President Joe Biden told reporters on Friday, “I’ve decided we’re going to be cautious. We don’t know a lot about the variant except it is a great concern, seems to spread rapidly.” He was speaking after the White House issued a statement on the travel ban. In the statement announcing the travel ban, Biden urged already immunized Americans to get their booster shots. It came a day after celebrating the Thanksgiving gatherings by American families, indicating things were getting normal.

The UK, Canada, Russia and the European Union also joined the list of countries imposing travel bans. We must move quickly and at the earliest possible moment, British Health Secretary Sajid Javid told lawmakers.

The new variant of concern has also spread a scare among the stock exchanges worldwide, stocks crashing, especially those related the travel industry. US and European futures fell and the 10-year Treasury yield dropped to 1.56%.

South Africa's Health Minister Joe Phaahla said that new travel restrictions amid concerns over a heavily mutated covid variant are “unjustified.” However, he said preliminary studies suggested the variant may be more transmissible.

India swings into action

In New Delhi, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to stop flights from those countries where the new variant has been detected. "I urge 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," Kejriwal said in a tweet.

Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar said that the samples of every passenger coming from South Africa would be sent for genome sequencing on arrival in Mumbai.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a high-level meeting on Friday on the new covid variant of concern. “PM said that in light of the new threat, people need to [be] more cautious and the need to take proper precautions like masking & social distancing. PM highlighted the need for monitoring all international arrivals, their testing as per guidelines, with a specific focus on countries identified ‘at risk’,” his office said in a statement following the meeting.

The Delta variant is still wreaking havoc in in Europe and parts of the United States.

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