Omicron in India: Man from Zimbabwe tests positive in Gujarat, confirmed cases in country rise to three
A day after two cases of Omicron variant were reported in Karnataka, the Centre and states are on high alert to keep the virus at bay
A 72-year-old man has tested positive for Omicron, the new COVID-19 variant, in Jamnagar city of Gujarat following his return from Zimbabwe — of the "at-risk" countries — as per reports.
This is the third Omicron case in India.
Gujarat's Commissioner of Health Jai Prakash Shivhare confirmed that the man has tested positive for the Omicron variant.
The man had arrived in Gujarat from Zimbabwe on 28 November and had tested positive for coronavirus on 2 December, after which his sample was sent for genome sequencing, officials said.
Jamnagar municipal commissioner Vijaykumar Kharadi had said that the sample was sent to Ahmedabad for genome sequencing to ascertain whether he was infected with the Omicron variant.
The man, who hails from Jamnagar, has been living in Zimbabwe for the last many years. He arrived in the state to meet his father-in-law. After he got a fever, his doctor advised him to get an RT-PCR test done. The private laboratory on Thursday informed the civic authorities that his report has come out positive for COVID-19, he said.
After that, the man had been shifted to the isolation ward at the Guru Gobind Singh Government Hospital, Kharadi said. The district authorities had already started his contact tracing as per protocols, officials said.
The Omicron variant, the latest ‘variant of concern’, reached Indian shores earlier this week after the government announced that two positive cases had been traced in Karnataka.
The other two confirmed cases in India are of a 46-year-old fully vaccinated doctor from Bengaluru, who had no travel history and developed symptoms of fever and body ache, and a 66-year-old South African national who came to India with a negative COVID-19 report.
While these are the three confirmed cases, there has been some concern over other suspected cases. Here's what we know so far.
• The Karnataka government has directed local officials to investigate how the 66-year-old man, who tested positive for Omicron, 'escaped'.
On Friday, it was reported that the 66-year-old man had left the country after taking a COVID-19 negative certificate from a private lab.
Moreover, they are also trying to track down 10 more people who reportedly went 'missing' from the Bengaluru airport.
• The Maharashtra Health Department has sent a total of 30 samples for genome sequencing after airport and field surveillance to detect the presence of Omicron. Until Friday morning, 2,821 passengers arriving from high-risk countries at Mumbai airport have been tested using RT-PCR, with two samples testing positive, it added. A total of 224 out of 11,060 passengers arriving from other countries have been tested as well and one sample has returned positive, a department official said.
• In Delhi, 12 COVID-19 patients are suspected to be infected with the Omicron variant. All of them are admitted to Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan (LNJP) hospital. According to news agency ANI, eight Omicron suspects were admitted to LNJP hospital on Thursday. Among the other four suspects, two arrived from the UK, one from France and one from the Netherlands.
• In Jaipur, a family of nine tested positive for COVID-19, days after four of them returned from South Africa. Those who returned from South Africa have been admitted to the hospital of the Rajasthan University of Health Sciences (RUHS) and swab samples of all nine people have been sent for genome sequencing to Jaipur's Sawai Man Singh Hospital, a health official said.
• There have been other cases of people trying to escape the surveillance set up by authorities to detect the new variant. In Chandigarh, a woman who returned from South Africa two days ago allegedly broke home quarantine and went to a five-star hotel, prompting authorities on Friday to order strict action against her for violating protocols for travellers, especially those arriving from "at-risk" countries where Omicron variant has been detected.
After returning from South Africa, the woman reached a housing society in Sector 48-B in Chandigarh on 1 December, according to an official order. On 2 December, she broke the quarantine protocol and went to a five-star hotel in the evening and later left the hotel late in the night to go back home, it said. The director, Health Services, has been asked to arrange for an RT-PCR test of all the staff of the hotel immediately.
• West Bengal government on Friday directed that travellers from countries affected by Omicron to the state will be required to stay in isolation for seven days, a senior official said. Travellers flying in from other parts of the country will have to furnish their reports of RT-PCR tests as the threat of Omicron, the COVID variant, looms across the world, he said. Direction was also given to keep strict vigil on flyers from neighbouring Bangladesh and Singapore, the official said after a meeting held by chief secretary H K Dwivedi and Airport Authorities officers during the day.
Meanwhile, scientists say that India should prioritise double vaccinating its eligible population against Covid over booster shots given a large number of people still to get the base layer of protection against the infection. Concerns over the Omicron variant and waning vaccine-induced protection against the infection have highlighted the need for boosters to protect the most vulnerable.
And while many countries have already started giving booster shots, several experts here said the priority in India has to be different given that large-scale immunisation programme began only six-eight months ago. In advocating putting boosters on the back-burner for the moment, the experts' opinion runs counter to the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Sequencing Consortium (INSACOG) that has recommended a booster dose for those above 40 years in high-risk and high-exposure populations.
With inputs from agencies
International tourist arrivals worldwide have more than doubled, up 130 per cent in January 2022 on the same period last year, according to UN World Tourism Organization figures
So far, more than 3.01 crore (3,01,97,120) children in the age group of 12-14 years have been administered the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.