Mumbai registers 2 more Omicron cases, national tally at 23
Two people were found infected with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus in Mumbai and neither had any symptoms of the disease, authorities said on Monday, taking the total cases of such infections in the country to 23 across five states.
A 37-year-old man who arrived in Mumbai from South Africa and his 36-year-old friend who landed in the city from the United States tested positive for the variant in Mumbai, said authorities. This takes the total number of cases of the Omicron variant in Maharashtra to 10.
According to Maharashtra government officials, both the patients displayed no symptoms and were vaccinated with Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine. Five high-risk and 315 low-risk contacts of the patients were traced till late Monday, said officials, adding that vigorous tracing of other contacts was underway.
Cases of the Omicron variant have been reported from places in Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka and Delhi. The first two cases of the variant were reported from Bengaluru last week.
In several states, authorities rushed to trace and test people who had come in contact with patients suffering from the Omicron variant of the virus. Scientists have repeatedly called for aggressive testing and tracing to prevent the domestic spread of the variant, which is still being studied across the world.
In Gujarat’s Jamnagar, the wife and brother-in-law of a person who was found to be infected with the Omicron variant on Saturday tested positive for Covid-19 and their samples were sent for genome sequencing, said a statement released by the city municipal corporation. It added that both of them were shifted to an isolation ward.
On December 4, genome sequencing established the Jamnagar patient, a 72-year-old man who arrived in India from Zimbabwe, had contracted the Omicron variant. Zimbabwe is one of the high-risk countries in southern Africa where the variant was first detected.
The man, who had taken both the doses of a Chinese vaccine in Zimbabwe, is currently in the isolation ward of a hospital in Jamnagar. His wife, who came with him from Zimbabwe, and his brother-in-law, who lives in Jamnagar, tested positive for Covid-19 on Sunday and other family members tested negative, Jamnagar’ civic body said.
The municipal corporation declared the residential society where the patient’s family resides a micro-containment zone and restricted the movement of people with barricades.
In Odisha, two people who arrived from abroad tested positive for Covid-19 and their samples were sent for genome sequencing to the Institute of Life Sciences in Bhubaneswar, said the institute’s director Ajay Parida.
Senior health officials said 800-odd people returned to Odisha from 11 countries – United Kingdom, South Africa, Brazil, Botswana, China, Zimbabwe, Mauritius, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore and Israel – that were placed in the ‘at-risk’ category since November 26. About 40% of these persons were not traceable, officials said.
In Goa, five people -- three from Russia and two from Georgia -- tested positive for Covid-19 and their swab samples were sent for genome sequencing, officials said. In Kerala, swab samples of a doctor from United Kingdom was sent for genome sequencing, local authorities added.
In Telangana, genome sequencing of 13 foreign passengers who tested positive for Covid-19 came back negative for the Omicron variant, said director of medical and health G Srinivas Rao. He added that 1,805 passengers arrived in Hyderabad from high-risk countries in the last five days and 13 had tested positive for Covid-19.
In Madhya Pradesh’s Jabalpur, a 28-year-old man who arrived from Germany on Sunday tested positive for Covid-19 and his samples were sent for genome sequencing, said Dr D Mohanty, incharge of contract tracing in the district.
In Uttarakhand, officials said 176 samples were sent for genome sequencing. Bihar health minister Mangal Pandey said that the state was on high alert though no cases of the variant were reported from the state.
Much remains unknown about Omicron, which was first identified in South Africa on November 8. It was subsequently labelled as a variant of concern by the World Health Organization on November 26.
Dozens of countries have imposed travel restrictions on southern African nations since it was discovered.The variant has already gained a foothold in Europe, Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe. Many governments rushed to tighten travel rules to keep the variant out.
According to the India’s genome testing consortium, INSACOG, the omicron variant is characterised by 30 amino acid (building blocks of proteins) changes – of these 15 are in the receptor binding domain that connects with the human cells to enter inside and three small deletions and one small insertion in the spike protein.
Experts have stressed that more time is needed to determine if cases of this variant progress to the severe stage, or if vaccines would need to be reworked to combat it.
On Monday, Maharashtra’s deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar said there was need to take a decision at the national level on whether a booster dose of the vaccine was required. “Is booster dose required? We have doses available today. There is a need to take a decision at the national level in this regard I think. There are different opinions about it. So, it should be told why it needs to be given or why it shouldn’t. Only experts who have researched it (the infection) can talk about it,” Pawar said.