Omicron Covid-19 variant: Pfizer, BioNTech unsure about vaccine efficacy against new coronavirus strain - watsupptoday.com
Omicron Covid-19 variant: Pfizer, BioNTech unsure about vaccine efficacy against new coronavirus strain
Posted 27 Nov 2021 04:50 PM

Image Source: TIMES NOW

Indians will finally be able to travel to international destinations starting December 15, 2021. However, travel to as many as 14 countries has been restricted amid the rise and spread of a new Covid-19 strain ‘Omicron’ or B.1.1.529 strain recognised as ‘Variant of Concern’ by the World Health Organisation (WHO). "The matter of resumption of scheduled commercial international passenger services to and from India has been examined in consultation with the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and it has been decided that scheduled commercial international passenger services to and from India may be resumed from December 15, 2021,” stated Ministry of Civil Aviation order released late Friday. Full flights will resume for countries that are not at risk from the new coronavirus strain, however, 14 countries identified under threat from ‘Omicron’ will see only 75% of pre-Covid flight operations, if they have prior bubble agreements with India, and 50% operations in case there is no bubble agreement, the government order stated. These 14 countries include France, Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, the United Kingdom, Singapore, China, Mauritius, South Africa, Brazil, and New Zealand. The Centre decided against resuming flights to these nations as the COVID-19 pandemic has not been completely contained in these countries. Out of these 14 “at risk” countries, bilateral air bubble agreements have been signed with UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Finland in Europe, Israel, Bangladesh, Hong Kong and Singapore. However, no air travel agreements exist with South Africa, Brazil, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Botswana and Zimbabwe. India’s Ministry of Health & Family Affairs selected “at risk” countries based on the number of cases there. As part of air bubble arrangements with 32 countries, restricted flight operations are allowed with signatory countries wherein passengers are ferried only to their home bases. All flight operations were shut down on March 23 last year and later domestic flights were resumed along with Vande Bharat repatriation flights were begun for stranded citizens. Several countries including the US and some EU countries have closed their borders for passengers from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi as the new variant threatens millions worldwide. A WHO panel described the new strain as “highly transmittable”. The variant has a large number of mutations some of which have “worrying characteristics,” said Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, Covid-19 Technical Lead, WHO Health Emergencies Programme.

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