Thiruvananthapuram: The Omicron variant of the coronavirus is not to be taken lightly, Kerala Health Minister Veena George said on Wednesday.
"Omicron, the more virulent strain of coronavirus, spreads faster than other variants. Omicron spreads at a rate five to six times higher than Delta. It cannot be taken lightly," she said.
"Kindly use N-95 masks or double masks in public places," George said.
"There are rumours circulating that Omicron is not severe and that contracting the strain is equivalent to a vaccine dose. This is entirely wrong. Strict action will be taken against those spreading rumours," she added.
The minister also requested the public to avoid hospital visits as much as possible and limit it to emergencies.
"Kindly use tele-medicine facilities like e-Sajeevani provided by the state government. Visit hospitals only if absolutely necessay," the minister added.
By-standers for in-patients must be limited to one.
Currently, there are 3,107 ICU units at government hospitals and 7,488 units at private centres. There are 2,293 ventilators in government centres and 2,423 ventilators available in private health care.
1,508 health workers are currently, affected by the Covid-19. Precautions are being taken to prevent the spread of the disease among front-line workers. The government has asked health workers to take the booster shot at the earliest.
Establishments must take due care to prevent the formation of Covid clusters.
The rumour that essential medicine for diseases including rabies are not available is false, the minister said.
The government has warned the public about the severity of the Covid spread at each phase. Delta and Omicron variants are spearheading the rapid rise of Covid cases in the state, she added.
COVID-19 infections in Kerala on Tuesday witnessed a steep rise as the state reported 28,481 new positive cases taking the infection count to 54,07,312.
Kerala reported 63 more cases of Omicron on Tuesday taking the total Omicron caseload in the state to 591. This includes 401 from low-risk countries and 101 from high-risk countries. Of the total cases, 70 contracted the virus through contact. There are 19 cases from other states.