Omicron: India Reports First Cases of New Covid-19 Variant

Two people from Karnataka tested positive for the Omicron variant of coronavirus, the Union health ministry said Thursday. These are the first two cases of the fast-spreading new variant to be reported in India.

Addressing a briefing, the health ministry said that around 29 countries have reported 373 cases of Omicron variant so far.

“Omicron variant has been detected in Karnataka through genome sequencing effort of INSACOG consortium of 37 laboratories established by the health ministry. These are the first confirmed cases in India,” the Centre said.

“All primary and secondary contacts of both Omicron cases detected in Karnataka have been traced and are being tested,” it added.

The Omicron variant was first detected in southern Africa and since then has spread to 29 countries, the health ministry official said making India the 30th. The Indian government has already implemented strict measures for international travellers to control and check the spread of the new strain. Those measures come into effect from Wednesday December 2.

Starting Wednesday, India’ new travel restrictions for international passengers arriving from “at risk” countries a list includes UK, South Africa, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Hong Kong and Israel.

The Centre urged people to not panic and stressed on following the Covid 19 appropriate measures to curb the spread of the virus.

“All Omicron related cases 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,” union health ministry said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that Omicron poses a “high infection risk”.

The first case, a 66-year-old man, who has received both vaccine doses, travelled from South Africa on November 20 with a negative Covid-19 report. He tested positive on arrival and was asymptomatic, following which he was told to self-isolate.  A week later (with a negative Covid-19 report from a private lab) he flew to Dubai.

The second case, a health worker from Bengaluru who developed symptoms (fever and body ache) on November 21. He tested positive the following day and was admitted to hospital; his sample was sent for genome sequencing on the same day. However, three days later he was discharged. His vaccination status is unclear at this time.

Samples from people who tested positive for Covid-19 in the national capital Delhi, and another six samples from the western state of Maharashtra, have all been sent for genome sequencing to determine the variant. Officials are still awaiting results. And other cities and states are following suit.

Travellers will be tested on arrival and cannot leave the airport without their test results. Those who test positive will be isolated and treated, and their samples will be sent for genome sequencing. While those who test negative must quarantine at home for seven days and get tested again on the eighth day.

Different states have announced different policies for travellers – Maharashtra – which announced a stricter set of rules said passengers flying in from “at-risk” countries will have to spend seven days in institutional quarantine. Delhi and Karnataka have said all international passengers will have to undergo PCR tests on arrival.

India after battling a a devastating infections and deaths in April and May, a second wave of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19). However, cases have come down substantially in India, where the Delta variant is the dominant strain now.

On Thursday alone, the country recorded 9,765 new cases of infections in the last 24 hours, which raised the total to 34.61 million. india has vaccinated nearly 80% of its population with at least the first dose so far.

This variant of the coronavirus has over 50 mutations in total with over 30 changes to the spike protein. While many of these mutations have already been present in other existing SARS-CoV-2 variants, such as the Delta variant, this new variant could be the winner “variant with the most mutations,” if a title were awarded today.