Covid-19 pandemic: Amid Omicron fear, curbs extended till December 15

Days after the Centre alerted all states and union territories (UTs) on the new ‘Omicron’ strain of the coronavirus which has been identified as a variant of concern by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the West Bengal government on Tuesday extended its Covid restrictions till December 15. It also decided to keep the prevailing night curfew hours from 11pm to 5am unchanged. However, essential services will be exempted from the curfew.

“After reviewing the current Covid-19 situation and the concerns due to the newly detected coronavirus variant, Omicron, the State Executive Committee of West Bengal State Disaster Management Authority recommended continuing with the existing restrictions and protocols,” read a government notification issued on Tuesday.

A senior health official said, “The situation is being monitored closely. Every guideline is being followed.” Amid fears of the new strain reaching India and spreading, the Union Health Ministry wrote to states and UTs asking them to intensify checks for international fliers at airports and enforce strict containment and active surveillance measures. It also called for an increase in vaccination coverage.

In a tweet on its official handle, Kolkata Airport authorities reminded passengers of the new guidelines by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). “If you are travelling from European countries, including the UK, S. Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, N. Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel, then you need to follow additional measures on arrival in India, including post-arrival testing. The listing of such specified countries is a dynamic exercise based on the evolving situation of Covid-19 across the world.”

C Pattabhi, director, Netaji Subhash International Airport, had earlier said Kolkata doesn’t have direct air connectivity with countries where the new variant has been reported. However, a series of meetings has been held alerting fliers, crew and ground staff to follow all measures to prevent the spread of the new strain.

West Bengal has an estimated population of 10 crore of which about 7 crore are above 18 years of age. According to the health department, more than 6 crore people have received their first vaccine dose, while nearly 70 to 75 lakh are yet to receive a single shot.

Meanwhile, West Bengal recorded 705 new Covid-19 cases and 13 deaths, with Kolkata accounting for 2 more fatalities taking its tally to 5,241. With 4 more deaths, the toll in the North 24-Parganas went up to 4,928.

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