Narendra Modi chairs high-level meet on COVID-19 situation amid concerns over new strain Omicron

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday chaired a meeting on the situation relating to coronavirus and the vaccination drive with top officials. The meeting was attended by top officials including Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, Principal Secretary to the prime minister PK Mishra, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan and NITI Aayog member (health) Dr VK Paul. The meeting comes amid rising global concern about the B.1.1.529 strain of the coronavirus, which the World Health Organisation named as Omicron on Friday and termed as a ‘variant of concern’. According to WHO, this variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Europe has already recorded its first case of the new COVID-19 variant in Belgium . Health minister Frank Vandenbroucke confirmed the same, saying, "We have a case that is now confirmed of this variant. This is someone who came from abroad, who tested positive on 22 November, who was not vaccinated." Several European countries including France, Germany and Italy, and the United States along with Canada and Australia have already imposed new travel restrictions with South Africa and neighbouring countries. Meanwhile, India called for rigorous screening of passengers from South Africa, Botswana, and Hong Kong, and the Health Ministry said: "This variant... has serious public health implications in view of recently relaxed visa restrictions and opening of international travel." India registered 8,318 new Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours . This is 21.1 percent lower than what was recorded on Friday morning. India's cumulative caseload now stands at 3,45,63,749. In the last 24 hours, India also reported 465 coronavirus deaths, taking the country's toll to 4,67,933. India administered 73,58,017 COVID-19 vaccine doses in the last 24 hours. The total number of doses administered in India so far is 1,21,06,58,262. With inputs from agencies

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