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Two Omicron cases in Karnataka, infections mild

A 66-year-old man, who recovered before leaving, was a foreign national who arrived from an unidentified South African city. The other positive case, too, was of a male, aged 46.
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Published on Dec 03, 2021 12:17 AM IST
By, New Delhi

Two men in Karnataka tested positive for the Omicron variant of the Sars-Cov-2, Union government officials said on Thursday, and added that there was no need to panic since at least these two individuals had “very mild” symptoms.

The government did not give further details, such as their vaccination status, in the interest of their privacy, but officials in Karnataka said the younger of the two men, who were unrelated, was a health care worker without a travel history.

Also Read | Don’t delay getting fully vaccinated: Centre after Omicron cases found in India

“Two cases of Omicron have been found positive: a 66-year-old male, and a 46-year-old male. We got the results very late last night,” said Lav Agarwal, joint secretary, Union ministry of health and family welfare, during a press briefing on Covid-19 on Thursday.

“It is being investigated how the second person got the infection; he could be a contact of the 66-year-old but that is still under investigation. The foreign national has flown out, and the second person is on road to recovery,” said a senior government official aware of the matter, on condition of anonymity.

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The 66-year-old man, who recovered before leaving, was a foreign national who arrived from an unidentified South African city – the country detected the variant first and one of its regions has recorded a sharp spike in new cases, although evidence of whether it is more transmissible, virulent or resistant will take a few weeks to develop.

The confirmation came after genome sequencing results returned from one of the labs under INSACOG.

“All primary and secondary and tertiary contacts have been identified and are being tested under isolation as per the government of India’s protocol. There is absolutely no need to panic as we have a robust and aggressive surveillance mechanism in place to ensure cases are detected early and no case is missed,” Agarwal added.

Also Read | All contacts of India’s 1st Omicron patient test negative, not so for 2nd patient

A second government official at the briefing, too, stressed that there was no reason to worry yet. “We need not panic but awareness is absolutely essential; Covid-appropriate behaviour is required,” said Balram Bhargava, director general, Indian Council of Medical Research.

The government officials stressed on the need for people to take both their doses on time, but did not indicate whether there was a plan to shrink the gap between two doses.

“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. World Health Organization (WHO) has said that its emerging evidence is being studied,” said Agarwal.

To be sure, the variant was first detected only on November 8 and experts say more time is needed to determine if cases progress to the severe stage.

The two cases confirmed in India takes the total number of countries confirmed with a variant on their soil to 30.

Since December 1, India has begun actively screening international passengers on arrival, with mandatory RT-PCR for people coming from ‘at risk’ countries.

“If found positive for Covid-19, they will be treated under clinical management protocol. If tested negative they will follow, home quarantine for seven days with a repeat test on day 8,” Agarwal added.

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

Experts backed the government’s call for people to not panic.

Anurag Agrawal, director, CSIR- Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, said: “That Omicron would have reached in India in November was almost guaranteed. Nothing has changed by actually sequencing and confirming. There is no need to panic; just [need] to continually assess risks in a scientific manner and to be prepared.”

WHO termed Omicron a variant of concern last Friday, and the UN health body suggested that preliminary evidence found an increased risk of re-infections as compared to other variants of concern.

Also Read | Omicron alert: WHO South-East regional director advises increased surveillance

The new variant is heavily mutated, with up to 30 mutations in the spike protein, which is what most vaccines use to train the immunity.

India has added 11 regions, including all of Europe, to the list of “at risk” countries from where travellers would need to follow additional measures on arrival in the country, including post-arrival testing for infection

“The detection of Omicron demonstrates that the screening systems are there and the systems are working well. As for the clinical implications or severity of the variant, it is still being studied, ” said Vinod Paul, member (health), Niti Aayog.

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