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NEW DELHI : The ministry of home affairs (MHA) on Monday urged states to recommend ways to contain the spread of covid-19 following early signs of a surge in cases amid the detection of the new virulent strain Omicron across the country.

In a letter, Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla said states must consider imposing need-based local curbs and restrictions for crowd control during the festive season. Bhalla emphasized that there should be continued focus on test-track-treat-vaccinate and adhere to covid-appropriate behaviour to avoid the possibility of a third wave, especially in view of the new variant of concern (VOC).

“The country witnessed an overall decline in active cases. However, the new variant, Omicron, is reported to be at least three times more transmissible than the Delta VOC, and is posing a new challenge for covid containment measures," Bhalla said.

“In the countries with Omicron-driven surge, the growth trajectory of cases has been very steep. 578 Omicron cases have already been reported in 19 states and UTs so far."

Omicron has been reported in 116 countries.

Bhalla said the Union health ministry had on 21 December provided a normative framework, and that with distinct presence of the Delta variant and detection of Omicron, there is a need for strict and prompt containment actions at the local and district levels.

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