The Tamil Nadu Directorate of Public Health and Preventive Medicine has urged the Union’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) to issue further guidance for additional monitoring of all international passengers arriving in the state that may be similar to international travelers from “at-risk countries”.

Currently, only 11 countries (including European countries and the UK) have been declared “at risk” countries, and additional monitoring protocols are being followed for travelers from these countries. An additional monitoring protocol for passengers from “non-risk countries” was not followed.

Only 2 percent of passengers from “non-risk countries” are randomly tested with RT-PCR and allowed to leave the airport even before the results are announced, increasing the chances of missing passengers from “non-risk countries” infected, said TS Selvavinayagam, director of health Public and Preventive Medicine, in a letter to the Federal Ministry of Health, reports the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 from being detected leading to rapid transmission of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 in the community.

As of December 17, 12,767 passengers from “at-risk countries” and 2,101 from “non-risk countries” had been tested. Of these, 22 of those tested positive on the day of arrival and 13 tested positive on the eighth day of retesting from ‘at-risk’ countries. Among the ‘non-risk countries’, 7 tested positive or tested positive on day 8 testing and 16 contacts also tested positive.

Samples from 70 people who tested positive were submitted with full genetic sequencing. One person from Nigeria (non-risk country) was found to be positive for the Omicron variant. Seven other people from “non-risk countries” ie. , Turkey, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Nigeria, Dubai and 4 subjects from the United Kingdom (country at risk) ‘low S gene’ were tested by TAQ PATH RT-PCR assay, characteristic of the Omicron variant of SARS-Sequenced gene suspended for CoV-2.

Approximately 16 contacts of four positive subjects from ‘non-risk countries’ tested positive for ‘low S gene’ by TAQ-PATH assay RT-PCR. Of the 28 “Descent S genetics” only 4 were identified from “high risk countries” and the remaining 24 were from “non-risk countries” or their acquaintances.

All positive contacts of ‘low S gene’ and ‘Omicron variant Covid’ turned positive within 48 hours and therefore have the possibility of a short incubation period. The exposure period for ‘low S gene’ was positive with ‘low S gene’ positive subjects. The ‘Omicron variant Covid’ is also as low as 2 hours which makes it highly contagious and therefore can be transmitted quickly.

The letter urged the ministry that all international passengers arriving in Tamil Nadu should undergo mandatory post-arrival tests for Covid-19. If they are found to be positive, they will be treated according to the current protocol. They should only be allowed to leave the airport or take a transit flight if they are found to be negative.

All negative passengers are to be advised to undergo mandatory home/institutional quarantine for 7 days and re-test again on the 8th day of arrival in Tamil Nadu. If found positive, it will be treated according to the current protocol. The letter said that if it turns out to be negative, they may be advised to monitor their health themselves for another 7 days.

Meanwhile, in the 15th Covid-19 vaccination mega camp held across Tamil Nadu on Saturday, a total of 1,907,009 beneficiaries were vaccinated. Of the total, 6,21,942 took the first shot and 12,85,067 took the second shot, according to a press release from the state health department.

More than Rs 8 crore people have taken Covid vaccines – both government and private sector combined. Of this, 2.63 crore earned the shots at the private mega-camps.

As on Saturday, 84.26 percent of residents in the state got their first dose while 54.73 got their second dose, according to a statement.

Daily coronavirus cases in Tamil Nadu fell on Saturday to 614 from 621 on Friday. After 665 people were discharged, the number of active cases reached 7,346.

Nine deaths were recorded and 1,00,175 samples were tested.

The number of new cases in Chennai was 125 (127) and in Coimbatore it was 104 (102), according to health ministry data.

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