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Experts warn new variant might spread across Nepal due to open borders



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Kathmandu, Nov.27: Experts have warned that the new Coronavirus variant ‘Omicron’ detected in Africa might spread across Nepal because of the regular International flights and the open border.

The World Health Organisation (WHO), announcing B.1.1.529 as a variant on November, 26 as Variant of Concern (VOC) said that this variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs.

According to Dr Sher Bahadur Pun, chief of the clinical research unit at Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital, Teku, the detection of a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, known as B.1.1.529, with an unusually high number of mutations, it poses a grave risk of transmission across borders with airways.

Omicron was detected in Africa on November 24.

“Genomic sequencing has found the variant in South Africa, Botswana, and Hong Kong. If the virus has reached Hong Kong and spreads to India, then, it might travel to Nepal.” He said, “There is an influx of people between the open border to Nepal and India every day. Observing the past, it is seen that diseases have spread from India to Nepal, including COVID-19.”

He stressed that the risk of the new variant must be looked at from three broad perspectives. First, if the B.1.1.529 variant is more aggressive than the delta variant then it will spread rapidly. Second, the strain on the health care services in Nepal, and third is the effectiveness of the anti-COVID-19 vaccine against the new variant.

Experts around the globe have pointed out that the Omicron Variant might be more transmissible after citing the exponential surge in COVID-19 cases lately. The data of the World health meter has revealed that as many as 274 cases detected on November 11 rise to 1,000 fortnight later in Africa.

Dr Shyam Raj Upreti, Public Health Expert suggested that Nepal must be at alert beforehand, saying that the nature of Omicron is said to be contagious as per WHO, therefore, it increases the high possibility of spread.  

Dr Krishna Prasad Poudel, Spokesperson at the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP), said that there is the possibility of a new variant or any variant to enter Nepal with regular international flights.  

“We have decided to put the health checkup desk in the Tribhuvan International Airport and to perform health checkups to people coming from the countries where a new variant is detected. If the virus will be observed in any citizen travelling from a new variant infected country, then the gene sequencing will be conducted as well” said Dr Poudel.

It has been said that the surveillance team at the TIA have been alerted.

A further announcement can be made if a new variant will be seen in India as it shares borders to Nepal. Similarly, gene sequencing is being done as well to identify which variants of SARS-COV-2 are active in Nepal.