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India Detects First 2 COVID-19 Cases Of Omicron Variant In Karnataka, Government Asks To Not Panic

We need not panic about Omicron detection but awareness is absolutely essential. Follow Covid-appropriate behaviour and avoid gatherings: Government

India Detects First 2 COVID-19 Cases Of Omicron Variant In Karnataka, Government Asks To Not Panic
Coronavirus variant Omicron was first detected in South Africa in November
Highlights
  • The 2 cases of Omicron in India have been reported in Karnataka
  • The two patients are men aged 66 and 46; their contacts have been traced
  • All primary and secondary of the patients are being tested: Centre

New Delhi: India has detected two COVID-19 cases of the Omicron variant (B.1.1.529), which was first reported in South Africa and triggered a global alarm, informed the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Thursday (December 2). The two cases have been reported in Karnataka with the patients being two men aged 66 and 46, the Health Ministry’s Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal told a news briefing. The government categorically said that the identities of two patients will not be disclosed for now to protect their privacy.

Of the two, one is a foreign national. All primary and secondary contacts of the two men have been traced and are being tested, said Mr Agarwal, adding that both the cases are mild and there are no severe symptoms so far.

Also Read: Toxic Mix Of Low COVID-19 Vaccination And Testing A Recipe For Amplifying Variants: WHO Chief

A 66-year-old man, one of the first two Omicron patients in India, arrived in the country on November 20 and left for Dubai on a flight seven days later, official records showed on Thursday (December 3). According to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), Bengaluru’s municipal corporation, the man arrived from South Africa with a negative COVID-19 test report on November 20 at the city’s international airport. He was fully vaccinated. Upon his arrival, he checked into a hotel the same day and was found to be positive for COVID-19.

When a government doctor visited him at the hotel, he was found to be asymptomatic and advised to self-isolate. His samples were collected again and sent for genome sequencing on November 22. All 24 primary contacts and 240 secondary contacts of the man tested negative for COVID-19.

Separately, on November 23, the man took another COVID-19 test at a private lab and the result came back negative. On November 27, around midnight, he checked out of the hotel and boarded a flight to Dubai.

Also Read: How South African Scientists Spotted The Omicron COVID Variant

Another 46-year-old man is a health worker from Bengaluru and is reported to have no travel history. He developed fever and body ache on November 21 following which he tested positive for COVID-19 and was admitted to the hospital and a sample was sent for genome sequencing. Five contacts of the man have also tested positive and their samples have been sent for genomic sequencing, said the Karnataka government.

The government said there is no need to panic about Omicron detection. However, it stressed on being aware and following COVID-appropriate behaviour and avoiding gatherings.

As on December 1, 373 cases of Omicron variant have been found in 29 countries, informed Mr Agarwal.

With two new cases, India is the 30th country in the world to report cases of the coronavirus variant ‘Omicron’.

Talking about the latest development, Dr Poonam Khetarpal Singh, WHO Regional Director, South East Asia, said the news of two cases was not unexpected in view of the interconnected world that we live in. She added,

This emphasises on the need for all countries to step up surveillance, to be on alert and rapidly detect any importation and take measures to curtail further spread of the virus. The response measures for all variants, including Omicron, are the same as those for SARS-CoV-2. Comprehensive and tailored public health and social measures by governments, and strict adherence to preventive and precautionary measures by individuals, is a must.

Also Read: Genome Sequencing Can Confirm Presence Of COVID-19 Variant Omicron: Expert

Dr Poonam Khetarpal Singh reiterated basic COVID protocols and suggested wearing a well-fitting mask, maintaining distance and hand hygiene, and avoiding poorly ventilated or crowded spaces. Dr Singh also urged to get vaccinated and continue precautionary measures even after that.

All About COVID-19 Variant Omicron

The B.1.1.529 variant was first reported to WHO from South Africa on November 24. After which, on November 26, WHO designated the variant B.1.1.529 a variant of concern, named Omicron, on the advice of WHO’s Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution (TAG-VE).

It is not yet clear whether Omicron is more transmissible (e.g., more easily spread from person to person) compared to other variants, including Delta. The number of people testing positive has risen in areas of South Africa affected by this variant, but epidemiologic studies are underway to understand if it is because of Omicron or other factors, states WHO.

Also Read: Omicron Variant Does Not Escape RT-PCR And RAT, Centre Tells States As It Asks Them To Ramp Up Testing

It is not yet clear whether infection with Omicron causes more severe disease compared to infections with other variants, including Delta. Additionally, RT-PCR test can be used as a marker for this variant and aid in sequence confirmation.

Sharing an update on Omicron on December 1, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO COVID-19 Technical Lead said, “we expect to have more information on transmission within days”. She added,

The more this virus circulates, the more infections there will be. The more infections there will be, the more people will die and this is something that can be prevented. Everything that we can do for Delta, which is dominant worldwide, needs to be applied and strengthened for Omicron.

According to Dr Angelique Coetzee, the chairperson of the South African Medical Association, who also alerted government scientists to the possibility of a new variant, mild symptoms like fatigue and body ache have been reported in the patients infected with this strain. She added that this is not limited to any age group, young patients also show extreme tiredness.

There has been no major drop in oxygen saturation levels of patients. Neither have they reported loss of taste or smell, which are known symptoms in patients infected with other strains, said Dr Angelique Coetzee in an interview with NDTV.

WHO is working with technical partners to understand the potential impact of this variant on our existing countermeasures, including vaccines. The WHO recommends: enhanced surveillance and sequencing of cases; sharing genome sequences on publicly available databases; reporting initial cases or clusters to WHO; performing field investigations and laboratory assessments to better understand if Omicron has different transmission or disease characteristics, or impacts effectiveness of vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics or public health and social measures.

Also Read: Explained: What Are The Symptoms Of Omicron, A Variant Of Concern

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity,  that is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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