COVID: Three-year-old from Pune among 9 new Omicron cases in India, tally now 32

Omicron COVID-19 variant
Represnetative image: Shutterstock/angellodeco

New Delhi/Mumbai: The Centre on Friday warned about the decline in usage of face masks in the country amid concerns over the Omicron variant of coronavirus whose all India tally rose by nine to 32, adding people are operating at a risky and unacceptable" level and in a "danger zone" from the point of view of protection liability.

A three-and-half-year-old girl from the Pune district was among the seven new Omicron cases from Maharashtra, according to an official release, in what could be the youngest person from the country infected by the new COVID strain. Four of the seven fresh cases were detected in Pune district and are contacts of three women travellers from Nigeria of Indian origin who were earlier confirmed to be infected with Omicron variant, an official said, adding they are all related. Gujarat also reported two new Omicron cases.

NITI Aayog member (Health) Dr V K Paul told a joint news conference in Delhi that the usage of masks in the country has declined to pre-second COVID-19 wave levels, and referred to an assessment on this aspect by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation(IHME).

"We warn you that it is still not yet time to remove the masks," as he stressed that both vaccines and masks are important.

"In a way, we have again entered a danger zone. From the point of view of protection capability, we are now operating at a low a risky and unacceptable level. We have to remember that both vaccines and masks are important," Paul said while referring to the assessment by the IHME, which is an independent global health research centre at the University of Washington.

Referring to a recent analysis by the World Health Organisation(WHO),  Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary in the Union Health Ministry, told the news conference that the WHO has highlighted that Public Health and Social Measures (PHSM) compliance is declining with an increase in the vaccination rate.

"We need to diligently adhere to these public health measures in order to safeguard ourselves and those around us against COVID-19, WHO has said."

"25 cases of the Omicron variant have been reported in India -- 10 in Maharashtra, nine in Rajasthan, three in Gujarat, two in Karnataka, and one in Delhi.  Omicron cases detected comprise less than 0.04 per cent of total variants detected. All detected cases have mild symptoms," Agarwal said. The total number did not include the seven new Omicron cases reported in the evening from Maharashtra.

Clinically, Omicron is not posing a burden on the healthcare system yet, but the vigil has to be maintained, he added.

Paul said the country is witnessing clusters of cases in one or two regions.  "Over 70 such clusters are under our watch and by and large the Delta variant is responsible for it...still we have to be vigilant. So vaccination is important and completing both doses and wearing masks is important," he said while urging people not to panic.

A release by the Maharashtra Health department said that as per the latest report from the National Institute of Virology, seven new Omicron cases have been reported in the state-- three in Mumbai and four in Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation(PCMC) in Pune district.

"The total Omicron positive cases in the state has increased to 17, it added.

The three new patients from Mumbai were all male, aged 48, 25 and 37 years with a recent history of travel to Tanzania, the UK and South Africa-Nairobi, respectively, the statement said. One of them is a resident of the densely populated Dharavi area who recently returned from Tanzania, but he was asymptomatic and isolated before he mingled with others, according to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation(BMC).

Four new patients from the PCMC limits are contacts of three women travellers from Nigeria of Indian origin who were earlier confirmed as Omicron cases. Of the seven new Omicron patients in Maharashtra, four were fully vaccinated and one had received a single dose of the coronavirus vaccine, the release said.

One adult patient was not vaccinated, while another is a three-and-half-year-old child and thus not eligible for inoculation, it added.

Four of the new patients are asymptomatic while three have only mild symptoms, the official release said.

In Gujarat, the wife and brother-in-law of an NRI man, who had been found infected with the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in Jamnagar a week ago, were also detected with the new strain, officials of the Jamnagar Municipal Corporation (JMC) said.

Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said a booster dose against COVID-19 comes into the picture only when the eligible population is fully vaccinated against the viral infection and that is the current priority for the state government.

However, a decision on administering the booster dose to further enforce immunity against the infection has to be taken by the Centre, he told reporters in Pune.

A Parliamentary committee has recommended that the Health Ministry in coordination with the agencies concerned should assess the requirement of vaccine booster shots to tackle different variants of the coronavirus.

Taking note of the threat posed by the Omicron variant, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs recommended that the Health Ministry in coordination with the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI) and the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC) should assess the requirement of booster doses in India to address the different variants of the virus. It expressed this view in a report tabled in Lok Sabha.

The Centre, meanwhile, said that NEGVAC and NTAGI are considering scientific evidence related to justification for booster doses against the coronavirus.

As per information available on, more than 60 countries are providing booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines, Minister of State for Health Bharati Pravin Pawar said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha.

She was responding to a question on whether the government has announced any policy for booster doses for COVID-19 vaccines.

On whether the government has conducted surveys or studies to assess the necessity and effectiveness of the dose, the union minister said the national regulator, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation, has granted permission to two firms to conduct clinical trials for the administration of booster doses.

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