Omicron: South Africa returnee tests positive for COVID-19 in Chandigarh
A man who had recently returned from South Africa has tested positive for the coronavirus after arriving in Chandigarh. One of his family member and a domestic help have also tested positive for COVID-19. This comes amid fears over the Omicron variant of coronavirus which is most prevalent in South Africa and has spread to several other countries despite travel curbs.
Why does it matter?
- The development is concerning for Indian authorities and the public.
- Experts have said there is no need to panic but rigorous screening and genome sequencing are key to handling the new threat.
- Omicron is likely the most heavily mutated version of the coronavirus.
- Early evidence suggests it is highly transmissible and may lead to reinfections, however, more studies are required.
Man returned from South Africa on November 21
The Chandigarh resident had returned from South Africa on November 21 and tested negative upon arrival at the airport. He was quarantined at home and tested again on Monday when he was found infected with COVID-19. The patient is currently in isolation at the Government Medical College & Hospital, Chandigarh. The test report of one of his family members is awaited.
Samples sent for genome sequencing
Meanwhile, the Secretary of Health, Chandigarh, on Monday held a review meeting to discuss the threat posed by Omicron. Officials decided to ramp up COVID-19 testing and vaccination in the city. Further, the samples of the South Africa returnee and his contacts have been sent for genome sequencing to NCDC, Delhi to determine the variant behind the infections.
Karnataka faces a similar scare
Earlier, two people who traveled from South Africa had tested positive for COVID-19 in Karnataka. The state's Health Minister Dr. K Sudhakar on Monday said the samples of one of the two passengers were "a little different from the Delta variant." The state administration has since put nearly 600 passengers under surveillance, officials said.
Union Health Secretary to hold meet
Separately, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan will, on Tuesday, hold a review meeting with state officials over the Omicron variant. India has not officially recorded a case of the new strain as yet.
What else do we know about Omicron?
Omicron, whose scientific name is B.1.1.529, has some 50 mutations including more than 30 in the spike protein—crucial for infecting host cells. However, symptoms displayed by patients infected with Omicron are "mild" and can be treated at home, a top South African doctor said. Studies to determine the efficacy of COVID-19 testing, vaccines, and treatment against the new strain are ongoing.