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Nitesh Kumar Sahoo

While Odisha is witnessing a rise in COVID cases at different residential schools and institutions, the emergence of the new SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.529 has triggered scare among students below 18 years old.

The new COVID variant is dubbed as 'a variant of concern' by WHO. As stated by health experts, Omicron is more lethal than the Delta variant and the new mutated variant may even infect individuals who have received double dose vaccines.  

Amid the rising fear over Omicron, the Odisha government has decided to intensify its preparations to tackle the situation and prevent the threats of a possible third wave. The government has decided to monitor international travellers.

The State Health Department issued a set of guidelines stating testing, quarantine and genome sequencing mandatory for those coming from outside, particularly from foreign countries. 

Odisha Chief Secretary Suresh Chandra Mohapatra has directed district Collectors, Chief District Medical Officers (CDMO) and Superintendents of Police to remain alert for a possible third wave of the pandemic in the State. He further directed to take immediate actions if any person shows COVID symptoms.

The Chief Secretary has also emphasised on door-to-door vaccination drive and directed to ensure that everyone adheres to the COVID guidelines released by the government. He also ordered to take the violators to task and take stern action against them.

Such directives have been issued following the surge in cases in schools and institutions which have been opened recently.  

State Health Minister Naba Kishore Das said, "We are keeping track of the new variant and monitoring international passengers from South Africa and other places. They will be tested and quarantined. They will also undergo treatment if they develop any symptom. All concerned officials have been directed to remain on high alert."

Health Services Director Bijay Mohapatra earlier today said that the guidelines issued by the State government are as per the instructions of the Centre. 

"Community surveillance and awareness measures need to be ramped up as they will play a crucial role in tracking down contacts of positive cases. Several measures are still continuing across the State as per protocol to check the spread of the Covid-19," Mohapatra added.

3rd Wave Scare Looms Over Schools, Institutions

While the scare of a possible third wave is looming over schools across the State, the number of positivity has witnessed a spike recently; especially in the residential institutions and hostels. Recently, COVID positive cases were reported from Burla VIMSAR, Saint Mary Girls High School in Sundergarh and Chamakpur government residential girls school in Karanjia among students as well as the working staff.

The positive cases 'within campus' have increased to 150. 

Following the detections of the cases, the campuses have been designated as mini-containment zones and parents have been barred from visiting the hostels.

While parents have expressed concerns over the rising cases in hostels and residential schools/colleges, Mass Education Minister Sameer Ranjan Dash said, "Positive cases have been reported in hostels of a few institutions and immediately those were shut down and were declared as containment zones. The district administrations are keeping vigil eyes on the events and will take action as and when needed. "

Health Expert Dr. Sarat Behera said that COVID cases are on the rise after the lockdown restrictions were lifted. "The State is witnessing a spike in daily cases of positivity. Omicron is more lethal than other variants and people must strictly follow COVID appropriate behaviour," he said.

It is expected that children below 18 years old are at high risk during the possible third wave of the pandemic as they still remain unvaccinated. Under such circumstances, COVID positivity is increasing in schools and colleges. Health experts have expressed concerns that a minor lapse could cost large.

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