India reports 2 cases of Omicron variant, government says
India has reported two cases of the new Omicron variant of coronavirus so far, Union Health Ministry Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said at a press briefing on Thursday. Both the cases have been detected in Karnataka. The Omicron variant has raised global alarm. It was first reported by South Africa and has since been detected in over a dozen countries.
Why does it matter?
- These are the first confirmed cases of Omicron in India.
- It is feared to be more dangerous as it is the most heavily mutated strain of SARS-CoV-2 detected so far.
- However, it has not been linked to severe disease or death yet.
- Regardless, the spread of Omicron is a bad sign for India's economy, which is still recovering from two deadly waves of COVID-19.
Both patients are men aged over 40
The two Omicron cases involve men aged 66 and 46, the Health Ministry said. Both are foreign nationals and had arrived in Bengaluru on November 11 and November 20. Officials said their identities will not be revealed for the time being to protect their privacy. All those who came in contact with them have been traced and are undergoing testing, the ministry added.
'No need to panic, awareness is key'
Authorities assured that there is no need to panic over the strain but awareness is "absolutely essential." Agarwal said at Thursday's COVID-19 briefing, "Follow COVID-19 appropriate behavior (and) avoid gatherings."
India introduces travel curbs over Omicron
India has imposed various fresh rules for international passengers in view of the Omicron variant. Those coming from "at-risk" countries must give their samples for testing at airports and wait for results. If found positive, they will be quarantined and their samples will be sent for genome sequencing. The resumption of regular international flights has also been deferred.
What is known about Omicron?
Omicron (B.1.1.529) has some 50 mutations including over 30 in its spike protein alone. Early data suggests it may be more infectious than previous variants including Delta. However, more research is needed to establish the same. Studies are also on to determine the efficacy of existing COVID-19 tests, vaccines, and treatment against Omicron. Over 370 cases have been detected in 29 nations so far.