- 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.
— PIB India (@PIB_India) December 2, 2021
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.
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.
WHO announced #Omicron as 'Variant of Concern' on 26 Nov '21
As on 01st Dec, 373 #OmicronVariant cases found in 29 countries
— PIB India (@PIB_India) December 2, 2021
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.
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.
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.
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