The Omicron variant, the latest ‘variant of concern’, reached Indian shores on Thursday after the government announced that two positive cases had been traced in Karnataka.
As panic spread and concerns grew, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare also published a FAQ on the new COVID-19 variant, which was first detected in South Africa, saying that given the fast pace of vaccination in India and high exposure to the Delta variant, the severity of the disease is anticipated to be low.
So, what’s been happening and how is India dealing with the new variant.
• 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.
With inputs from agencies