India confirms first two cases of Omicron in Karnataka; fresh guidelines soon says CM Bommai

Both the cases have been reported in Karnataka with the patients, the Health Ministry's Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal told a news briefing, adding that their identities will not be disclosed for now to protect their privacy

FP Staff December 02, 2021 18:01:39 IST

Two people from Karnataka have tested positive for the new coronavirus variant, Omicron, on Thursday, said the health ministry. These are the first cases of the fast-spreading variant that has triggered global alarm.

Addressing a media briefing Joint Secretary of the Union Health Ministry, Lav Agarwal said all primary and secondary contacts of the two infected persons from Karnataka have been identified and they are being monitored and COVID-protocols are being followed.

A 46-year-old male and a 66-year-old male were those who contracted the variant. Agarwal said that their identities will not be disclosed for now to protect their privacy.

As per News18, the 66-year-old man is a South African national while the other one has no travel history and is a healthcare worker. Both of them were tested at a hospital on 22 November and found to be positive with mild symptoms.  Sources also said that while one was fully vaccinated, the other one was partially jabbed.

The 66-year-old man landed in Bengaluru on 20 November and was isolated at a private hotel. Sources said he had 24 primary contacts and 240 secondary contacts, and all of them have tested negative. He went back to Dubai on November 27 after testing negative.

Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) commissioner Gaurav Gupta told News18 the 45-year-old, a resident of Bengaluru who was fully jabbed, is now in isolation at a government hospital. He had 13 primary contacts, of which three tested positive, and 205 secondary contacts, of which 2 were found to be infected.

"All people who came in contact with the two patients have been traced and are being tested," he said.

"There is no need to panic about the Omicron detection but awareness is absolutely essential. Follow COVID-appropriate behaviour, avoid gatherings," Agarwal said.

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, the health ministry added.

Meanwhile, Dr VK Paul at a press briefing on Thursday said increased vaccination against COVID-19 is the "need of the hour". The NITI Aayog member further urged the public not to delay in getting fully vaccinated.

Speaking about boosters, Paul said the scientific reasoning for booster is currently under examination and there is no plan to change dose gap because of Omicron.

The two cases were detected through genome sequencing effort of Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) consortium of 37 laboratories established by Union Health Ministry, said Balram Bhargava, Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research at the same press briefing.

Agarwal informed that the Omicron variant can be five times more infectious than the other known variants of the novel coronavirus.

"Around 29 countries have reported 373 cases of Omicron Variant so far," he added.

As part of the new guidelines, the Centre has made a negative RT-PCR test mandatory for travellers arriving from countries identified as 'at-risk' (where omicron cases have been reported). The central government also directed states to ramp up testing.

'Big challenge'

Chief Minister of Karnataka Basavraj Bommai, reacting to the development, said the two men travelled from South Africa and that the state was prepared to tackle Omicron. "We are consulting experts," he said, adding that Omicron is a big challenge and fresh guidelines in the state would be issued soon. "Until and unless we restrict it we will have to pay heavy price," Bommai said.

Speaking further on Omicron, Bommai said, "If anyone is coming from abroad, they should come healthy for the same of safety of other people too."

"We have to keep a sharp eye on people coming from South Africa and European countries," he added. "We have been testing people coming from south africa. We have to have a different protocol. We are ready for it, we are careful and alert on tracking and testing."

Bommai on Thursday called on Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya and discussed about the new COVID-19 variant 'Omicron', on the day it was announced that two cases of the variant have been detected in the southern state.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Bommai noted that he also discussed administering booster dose of the vaccine against COVID-19 to health workers. He said the health minister told him that the Centre is watching the current developments and a decision on administering COVID-19 booster dose to health workers will be taken after discussion with expert committees.

"I discussed two issues. One was about controlling the spread of COVID-19 and the other was about the new variant," the chief minister said. In the meeting, Mandaviya praised the state government's vaccination drive and called for continuing the campaign at the same speed and pace.

India reports 9,765 new COVID-19 cases

India was set to restart scheduled commercial international flights on 15 December, but on Wednesday scrapped that plan and said a resumption date would be announced in due course.

On Thursday, the country recorded 9,765 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, which took its overall crore to 34.6 million. The active caseload remained below the 1 lakh mark and now stands at 99,763.

The new COVID-19 variant was first reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) from South Africa on 25 November. As per the WHO, the first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on 9 November this year.

The next day, the WHO named the new COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529, which has been detected in South Africa, as 'Omicron'. It has been classified as a 'variant of concern'.

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

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.

The press conference was informed that the South East Asian region, including India, has only 3.1 percent of the world's COVID-19 cases in the last one week.

About vaccine coverage, the official said that 84.3 percent of the adult population in India got the first dose while 49 percent 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-19 positivity rate was over 10 percent in 15 districts and between 5 and 10 percent in 18 districts, the official said.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date:

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