Omicron: J&K Orders Universal Testing Of Foreign Visitors


Jammu: Amid the looming threat of new coronavirus variant Omicron, the Jammu and Kashmir government on Monday directed district administrations of Budgam and Srinagar to establish quarantine centres while the Health Department has been directed to establish genome sequencing facilities at Government Medical Colleges in Srinagar and Jammu to fast-track the detection of the new variant and other mutations.

These directions were passed by the Chief Secretary; Dr. Arun Kumar Mehta on Monday while chairing a meeting of the COVID Task Force to review the public health response to COVID-19, an official spokesperson said.

Mehta, he said, asked the divisional and district administrations to ensure universal testing of all foreign travellers to Jammu and Kashmir in the light of the emergence of new COVID variant Omicron.

In the meeting, he said, it was informed that the Central Government has issued guidelines for detecting cases of COVID variant Omicron from countries declared at risk.

“The Chief Secretary underscored the need to adhere to the laid down guidelines and test all the incoming foreign travellers through international flights. As per the guidelines, the negative travellers will be sent for home quarantine of 7 days and re-tested on the 8th day, whereas, the COVID positive patients will be sent to institutional quarantine centres for 15 days and their samples will be sent for genome sequencing at ICMR designated testing laboratories,” he said.

The official spokesperson said that it was emphasized that de-boarding from international flights must comply with the COVID appropriate behaviour (CAB) and set protocols and a special COVID helpdesk is forthwith established at the Srinagar airport. Besides, Secretary, Disaster Management was asked to monitor the situation and submit a daily report for timely intervention of the concerned agency.

“The Chief Secretary impressed upon the Health Department to establish genome sequencing facilities at Government Medical Colleges, Srinagar and Jammu to fast-track the detection of Omicron variant and other mutations,” he said.

“Moreover, district administrations of Budgam and Srinagar were asked to establish government quarantine centres and further explore arrangements for paid quarantine facilities for institutional quarantine to deal with any emergent situation,” he added.

The official spokesperson said that the Health and Medical Education Department was asked to conduct an equipment audit to establish functionality of COVID related infrastructure including COVID dedicated hospitals, ventilators, Oxygen supported beds, and Oxygen plants.

He further added that the Department was directed to ensure readiness of manpower and machinery to cater to a peak caseload of at least 7500 patients per day and firm up the inventory of oxygen supply and medicines.

“Further, the Chief Secretary directed the Deputy Commissioners to enhance testing rate and contact tracing for positive patients to trace infection trajectory and establish micro-containment zones at an early stage. Additionally, the Deputy Commissioners were directed to reduce the daily reported cases through strict enforcement of CAB, COVID SOPs and protocols, and micro-containment zones,” he added.

Administrative Secretaries of Finance, Health & Medical Education, Home, Disaster Management, Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction, besides Divisional Commissioners Kashmir/ Jammu, Deputy Commissioner of Anantnag, Srinagar, Kathua, Jammu, Udhampur, Reasi and Budgam, along with MD, National Health Mission, Director, Family Welfare, and other concerned officers participated in the meeting.

Health Dept Alerts Airport Officials

Meanwhile the health department on Monday asked the authorities at the Srinagar International Airport to implement the new guidelines issued by the government for international travellers arriving in the country, including Jammu and Kashmir.

According to an official spokesperson, Director Health Services Kashmir, Dr Mushtaq Ahmad Rather on Monday visited Srinagar International Airport in view of fresh guidelines for international arrivals.

Rather, who visited the airport on the directions of Additional Chief Secretary J&K Health and Medical Education Department, Vivek Bhardwaj, held a meeting with Director Srinagar International Airport Kuldeep Singh and with Covid in-charge health officials and appealed them to follow fresh guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India.

During the meeting, the official spokesperson said, Dr Mushtaq told the health officials to implement the new guidelines and follow the same in letter and spirit.

He said this has been done in view of the fresh guidelines issued by the Union Health Ministry which were revised in view of the Covid variant Omicron, which has been now classified as a Variant of Concern by the WHO.

“The Director Health appealed the officials to implement the guidelines on ground and ensure that every traveller is tested and all the precautionary measures at all places to help contain the virus spread,” he added.

According to the official spokesperson, the Director Health briefed the officials about the mandated submitting of 14 days travel details and upload negative Covid (RT-PCR) test results on Air Suvidha portal before the journey.

The new rules will come into effect from 1 December till further orders.

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