Two Omicron cases in India, contact tracing reveals 5 more COVID positive

COVID-19 Omicron variant
A vial and a syringe are seen in front of a displayed stock graph and words "Omicron SARS-CoV-2" in this illustration taken, November 27, 2021. Photo: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

Bengaluru: India on Thursday reported two cases of the Omicron, a coronavirus variant deemed to be more contagious and capable of overwhelming defences provided by the known vaccines.

The two cases were reported in the southern state of Karnataka, health officials informed. One of them is a 46-year-old healthcare professional working in Bengaluru while the other is a 66-year-old is a foreigner with a history of travel to South Africa.

Both had received two doses of vaccine.

Soon after the news broke, the Karnataka government traced people whom the two had come in contact with these past days. It said the 46-year-old healthcare professional has 13 direct contacts and more than 250 secondary contacts.

Of them, five have tested positive for Coronavirus, according to a recent update from health officials.

The five have been isolated and their samples have been sent for further testing.

Though the foreigner had with him a negative COVID report on arrival, he tested positive and asymptomatic. Subsequently, he was asked to self-isolate.

A week later, receiving a negative COVID report from a private lab here, he left for Dubai.

Samples from his 24 primary and 240 secondary contacts have returned negative test results.

With this, India becomes the 30th country in the world to report the new coronavirus strain.

Omicron, detected in South Africa, has been designated a 'variant of concern' by the World Health Organisation.

It is believed to have 50+ mutations, including over 30 on the spike protein, which makes it significantly more infectious than the Delta variant.

Announcing the advent of the virus in India, which some health experts said was inevitable, the Union health ministry said, "We need not panic about Omicron detection but awareness is absolutely essential. Follow Covid-appropriate behaviour and avoid gatherings".

Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraja S Bommai in conversation with Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya mulled the possibility of giving a booster dose of the vaccine to health workers.

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

The government has advised states to ramp up testing, a week after the health ministry said a fall in testing could undermine India's efforts to contain the pandemic.

After battling a record jump in infections and deaths in April and May, coronavirus cases have come down substantially in India, where the Delta variant is the dominant strain.

The country reported 9,765 new cases on Thursday, taking its total to 34.61 million. Only the United States has reported more.

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