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India takes early precautions as more nations report Omicron new 'variant of concern'

Experts Monday said the Omicron variant carries "concerning" mutations that may make it more transmissible and allow it to evade immunity, but stressed vaccines are still a critical tool.

India TV News Desk Edited by: India TV News Desk
New Delhi Updated on: November 29, 2021 23:14 IST
Families watch planes on the tarmac at Johannesburg's OR
Image Source : AP

Families watch planes on the tarmac at Johannesburg's OR Tambo's airport. The World Health Organisation urged countries around the world not to impose flight bans on southern African nations due to concern over the new omicron variant.

Highlights

  • WHO said it is "not yet clear" if the newly-detected variant is more transmissible
  • In Delhi, authorities ordered RT-PCR testing for all people arriving from 'high-risk' countries
  • The B.1.1.529 Covid variant, first detected in South Africa last week

India has not reported any case of the Omicron variant of coronavirus yet but Centre, states are taking early precautions as cases with new mutations arise in other nations. From RT-PCR tests, isolation to genome sequencing, efforts are being ramped up across the country to keep Omicron variant at bay. The WHO said it is "not yet clear" if the newly-detected variant is more transmissible or causes more severe disease, but countries are taking act-first-question-later-approach to deal with the new variant.

Omicron scare | How India is acting

  • The Karnataka health minister Monday said the sample of one of the two recent South Africa returnees appears "different from the Delta variant", even as experts stressed vaccines remain a critical tool.
  • Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said the situation is being closely monitored in consultation with other ministries regarding "any further decision" on resuming scheduled international passenger services. A senior Central government official said in Delhi no case of the new variant has been detected in the country, but results of genomic analysis of positive samples of international travellers are being expedited.
  • In Maharashtra's Thane, a 32-year-old Merchant Navy engineer who tested positive for coronavirus after returning from South Africa has been kept in isolation and his sample sent for genome sequencing.
  • The result will be known after seven days, Kalyan Dombivli Municipal Corporation's (KDMC) epidemic control officer Dr Pratibha Panpatil said.
  • Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said, "Information on passengers coming from abroad should be received regularly so that they can be monitored and the infection can be prevented in time."
  • In Delhi, authorities ordered RT-PCR testing for all people arriving from 'high-risk' countries, genome sequencing of the positive cases and mandatory isolation.
  • Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia told the media the new 'Omicron' variant was discussed by experts in the meeting and it was stressed that there should be no relaxation in preparation to deal with Covid infections and in monitoring the situation.
  • In Madhya Pradesh’s Jabalpur, health authorities have launched a search for a woman from Bostwana, named Khuno Oremeet Selyn, who visited the city on November 18.
  • Karnataka Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar, meanwhile, said the sample of one of the two persons who arrived in Bengaluru recently from South Africa appears "different from the Delta variant", the currently dominant strain.
  • "There is a 63-year-old man whose name I should not disclose. His report is a bit different. It appears different from the delta variant. We will discuss with the ICMR officials and will let people know by the evening what it is," the minister said.
  • Experts Monday said the Omicron variant carries "concerning" mutations that may make it more transmissible and allow it to evade immunity, but stressed vaccines are still a critical tool.

Goa holds top-level meeting

The Goa government will hold a top-level meeting on Tuesday to take stock of the COVID-19 situation in light of a new variant being found in the southern part of Africa recently, officials said.

The variant was christened as Omicron by the World Health Organisation and has been labelled as a 'Variant of Concern'.

Omicron first detected in South Africa

The B.1.1.529 Covid variant, first detected in South Africa last week, was designated by the World Health Organisation as a Variant of Concern (VOC).

Public policy expert Chandrakant Lahariya noted that Omicron has around 50 mutations. Of these, 32 are in spike proteins, which the virus uses to enter the human cells, and 10 are mutations of high relevance.

"These include H655Y, N679K and P681H mutations which potentially increase the transmissibility. The mutations R203K and G204R are being considered to be associated with higher infectivity. Similarly, there are deletions at NSP6, which could result in immune escape," Lahariya, also a physician and epidemiologist, told PTI.

Immunologist Satyajit Rath added that the emergence of the new variant suggests that "we need to stop treating the Covid pandemic as a short-term crisis that needed short-term measures but has already passed".

"The most important tool against this variant is to follow COVID-19 appropriate health guidelines and getting vaccinated. Vaccines should provide at least partial protection against progression of the infection to severe COVID," Ray told PTI.

(With inputs from PTI)

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