The new variant, first identified in southern Africa, contains a large number of spike-protein mutations, suggesting re-infection risk and potential vaccine resistance.
People returning from the ‘at-risk’ countries will have to be in home quarantine for seven days, despite testing negative for COVID-19. They will be examined again on the eighth day, Public Health Director Niranjan Mishra said.
As many as 224 people returned on Monday and 156 the day after, the health official said at a press conference, adding that the districts had been informed for surveillance.
The travellers came to the state only after testing negative at the international airports. The World Health Organization stated that there were 26 countries so far where the new variant has been detected, he added.
Meanwhile, a college in Dhenkanal municipality was sealed on Thursday after 33 students were found to have contracted COVID-19 Three to four days ago, four students at a hostel of Saikrupa Residential College at Kunjakanta were detected with the disease, following which others there were tested, the official said.
Out of 210 samples, 33 tested positive and the patients were moved to isolation. The area has been declared a containment zone for 10 days, he added.
Meanwhile, the state has logged 252 more coronavirus infections, which took the tally to nearly 10.5 lakh, while two fresh fatalities pushed the toll to 8,415, the health department said.
One each in Khurda and Jajpur districts have succumbed to the disease. Odisha currently has 2,434 active cases, while 10.39 lakh people have recovered, including 186 in the last 24 hours, a health bulletin stated.
Ten out of 30 districts of the state did not report any new coronavirus case in the last 24 hours.
Fifty-four children were among those newly infected.
Khurda district, of which the state capital Bhubaneswar is a part, recorded the highest number of 99 new infections, followed by 34 in Dhenkanal and 19 in Cuttack, it said.
At least 57,643 samples were tested in the last 24 hours.
The positivity rate stood at 0.44 per cent, the bulletin stated.
On Wednesday, the state had logged 237 new COVID-19 cases and two fatalities.
Over 2.79 crore beneficiaries have received the first dose of coronavirus vaccine in the state and more than 1.59 crore people have been administered both the shots, the bulletin added.