In the wake of the new COVID-19 variant reported lately in South Africa, the Ministry of Health and Population has urged people to remain cautious and follow the health protocols.

The variant classified as B 1.1.529, also known as Omicron, could spread to Nepal as well, the Ministry said. Keeping the new variant in mind, people visiting Nepal through South Africa should compulsorily stay in a week-long quarantine facility, as per the Ministry’s recent decision.

Nepal is at risk when a virus variant is reported anywhere across the globe, said Joint Secretary at the Ministry Dr Samir Kumar Adhikari. So caution is necessary, he added. The World Health Organization has classified the variant as ‘of concern’.

“Following this, we have stepped up vigil on people visiting Nepal through South Africa,” he said.

There is no need to worry as the variant has not been reported in Nepal yet. But caution is necessary, he said. “At present, the number of COVID-19 cases is decreasing. But the risks still persist. So there is a need to follow health protocols.”

The Omicron variant, first identified in South Africa, has so far spread to countries including Hong Kong, Belgium and Israel.

Krishna Poudel, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, said that as Nepal has a direct flight to Hong Kong, Sunday’s meeting of the COVID Crisis Management Coordinating Committee would decide whether to suspend its flights to and from Hong Kong.