Covid-19: Delhi reports first Omicron case as India vaccinates 50% adults

People at a market amid the threat of spread of Omicron, in Jalandhar | Photo: PTI
Seventeen more people tested positive for the Omicron variant of novel coronavirus in India on Sunday, taking the tally to 21. While Delhi reported its first case of Omicron infection, nine people, including four members of a family, were found infected with the variant in Rajasthan and seven others in Maharashtra.

This came a day after the Centre’s Har Ghar Dastak (door-to-door) vaccination campaign registered yet another milestone as over 10 million doses of the Covid vaccine were administered on a single day on Saturday -- the sixth time so far. The fully vaccinated adult population in the country has now crossed 50 per cent, even as the cumulative vaccination coverage has surpassed 1.27 billion.

Taking to Twitter, Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Mansukh Mandaviya hailed India’s achievement. “It is a moment of great pride as over 50 per cent of the eligible population is now fully vaccinated. We will win the battle against Covid-19 together,” he said.

The first patient to test positive for Omicron in Delhi is a resident of Ranchi and had travelled from Tanzania to Doha and from there to Delhi on a Qatar Airways flight on December 2. He stayed in Johannesburg, South Africa, for a week, officials told PTI. The patient has been isolated at Lok Nayak Jai Prakash (LNJP) Narayan Hospital where more than a dozen Covid-suspect cases are being monitored. While some states are now moving to create designated hospitals for Omicron-suspect cases, many feel it is not necessary yet.

A senior staff member of LNJP Hospital said, “All cases have mild symptoms. We are keeping a close watch and have been put on alert by the state government to be ready to ramp up capacity if required.”

Delhi Health Minister Satyendra Kumar Jain said that since Delhi receives the maximum number of international flights, it is most vulnerable.

The nine people who tested positive in Jaipur include four members of a family who returned from South Africa recently. With seven new cases in Pune district, a total of eight cases of Omicron have been detected in the state so far.

Meanwhile, agencies reported that the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation is likely to discuss the administration of an ‘additional’ dose of the Covid-19 vaccine to immuno-compromised individuals and pediatric vaccination in their meeting scheduled for Monday.

Although states are on the edge, there are no plans yet to have separate wards for Omicron-suspect cases. “It is neither practical nor necessary. One cannot go for genome sequencing for every Covid-positive patient to know which variant has infected him/her. Medically, there is no need to isolate these patients,” said Rahul Pandit, director-critical care, Fortis Hospital in Mumbai and Member of the National Covid-19 Task Force.

Experts have said that the Omicron situation will become clearer by the end of this year. Mumbai is now isolating every Covid-positive traveller in the civic body-run SevenHills Hospital and more will be added if the need arises, according to civic authorities.

Hospitals admitting Covid patients have become even more attentive to travel history and are keeping authorities informed. Maharashtra is on track to complete all first-dose vaccinations by the end of this month.

The Uttar Pradesh government is in the process of designating hospitals at the district level to deal with possible cases of the new variant, with special focus on Lucknow, Varanasi, Noida, and Ghaziabad, since they account for a bulk of inward international travellers. The state has also started genome sequencing facilities in three Lucknow hospitals to detect Omicron.

Southern states, such as Tamil Nadu (TN) and Kerala, have not lined up separate plans, other than following the national standard operating procedure. “There is no need for a separate Omicron hospital. These are basically Covid-positive patients and a separate area within the Covid hospital, where they can be isolated, is more than sufficient now. We follow the national standard guideline,” said T S Selvavinayagam, director of Public Health and Preventive Medicine in TN.

In Tamil Nadu, three international air travellers — two from the UK and one from Singapore — tested positive at Tiruchirappalli and Chennai airports, with their samples undergoing genome sequencing.

Most states have started making preparations to ramp up oxygen and intensive care unit beds if the Omicron scare gets more worrying.

In West Bengal, six swab collection counters, 350-seater waiting area, and food and beverage counters have been set up for international arrivals. The state is taking all its travellers testing positive to either the Infectious Diseases and Beliaghata General Hospital or a private-designated facility.

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