India's first two Omicron cases detected in Karnataka: What we know so far

(File photo: ANI)
Union Health Ministry on Thursday said two cases of Omicron variant of coronavirus have been reported in the country so far. Both cases are from Karnataka. Both the patients are men aged 66 years and 46 years with mild symptoms. Severe symptoms have not been noted, said Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary, Union Health Ministry.

All primary, secondary contacts of both Omicron cases detected in Karnataka have been traced and are being tested and they are under monitoring. The protocol is being followed, added Agarwal. 373 cases of Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 have been detected in 29 nations so far, the official said at a press briefing on Covid situation in India.

"The two cases of Omircron were detected in Karnataka through genome sequencing effort of Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) of 37 laboratories established by the Ministry of Health. We need not panic, but awareness is absolutely essential. Covid approprite behaviour is required, avoid gatherings," said Balram Bhargava, Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research.

"All Omicron-related cases in the world are found to have mild symptoms so far. In all such cases in the country and across the world so far, no severe symptom has been noted. WHO has said that its emerging evidence is being studied," said Agarwal. He also informed that the Omicron variant can be five times more infectious than the other known variants of the novel coronavirus.

Increased Covid vaccine uptake need of the hour, do not delay in getting fully vaccinated, an official said on Thursday.

"It is too early to assess whether Omicron causes more severe infection or less compared to variants, including Delta," an official said at the press conference.

Three primary contacts and two secondary contacts of the 46-year-old male tested positive between November 22 and 25, said Bengaluru civic body.

"One of the two patients is a 66-year-old male while the other is a 46-year-old male. The former had returned from South Africa (via Dubai) and was fully vaccinated. Three primary contacts and two secondary contacts of the 46-year-old male tested positive between November 22 and 25. All are isolated. Their samples have been sent for genome sequencing, results are awaited," said Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP).

An official also said that the South East Asian region, including India, has only 3.1 per cent of the world's Covud cases in the last one week.

About vaccine coverage, an official said that 84.3% of the adult population in India got the first dose while 49% got the second dose.

Kerala and Maharashtra have over 10,000 active Covid cases while nine states and Union Territories have active cases between 1,000 and 10,000. The weekly Covid positivity rate was over 10% in 15 districts and between 5% and 10% in 18 districts, Agarwal said.
"The confirmation of Omicron variant today by India, the first two cases in WHO South-East Asia Region, was not unexpected in view of the interconnected world that we live in. This emphasises the need for all countries to step up surveillance, be on alert and rapidly detect any importation and take measures to curtail further spread of the virus. Omicron variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Researchers around the world are conducting studies to better understand transmissibility, severity and immune escape capabilities of Omicron," said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia.

"There are two parts to the virus to worry about- infectivity & virulence. The R0 factor may be 12-18 times or even higher. It means it could be a very devastating spread. Right now, we don't know the exact details of it. There's nothing to suggest it's going to be okay and nothing to suggest it's going to be devastating. All we know is that we're in very tricky situation as they found this new variant which has 30 plus variants on the spike protein and over 50 variants in the whole structure. We don't know how will it behave but if you look at the preliminary data from South Africa, it says that in one day, number of cases can double. It's a fact which is putting the whole world on alert. We should be alert but not panic. Vaccination is important," said Dr Naresh Trehan, Chairman-MD, Medanta, The Medicity.

The new Covid variant was first reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) from South Africa on November 25. As per the WHO, the first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on November 9 this year.

On November 26, the WHO named the new Covid variant B.1.1.529, which has been detected in South Africa, as 'Omicron'. The WHO has classified Omicron as a 'variant of concern'.

Dozens of countries have imposed travel restrictions on the southern African nations since the mutation was discovered.

The new Omicron coronavirus variant has been confirmed in 23 countries and their number is expected to rise, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had said.
India has also added several countries to the list from where travellers would need to follow additional measures on arrival in the country, including post-arrival testing for infection.

Under the new guidelines issued by the Union Health Ministry on November 28, passengers originating or transiting from at-risk countries will have to undergo RT-PCR testing post-arrival and will be required to wait for the results at the airport before leaving or taking a connecting flight.

Travellers from countries excluding those countries at risk will be allowed to leave the airport and shall self-monitor their health for 14 days post-arrival but five percent of the total flight passengers shall undergo post-arrival testing at random at the airport on arrival.



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