4 more Omicron cases detected; India's tally climbs to 37
Four more cases of the Omicron variant of coronavirus were detected in India on Sunday, bringing the nationwide tally to 37. Andhra Pradesh and Chandigarh both reported their first cases, while one case each was reported from Maharashtra and Karnataka. The latest case was reported from Nagpur, Maharashtra—the state that has reported the highest number of Omicron cases.
- The Omicron variant is said to be the most heavily mutated strain of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.
- Early studies suggest that the variant is highly transmissible and may have the ability to escape prior immunity, even through vaccinations.
- Thus far, India has reported Omicron cases in Andhra Pradesh, Chandigarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan.
A 40-year-old man was detected with the Omicron strain in Nagpur, Maharashtra on Sunday, making it the country's latest case. Earlier on Sunday, a 34-year-old man tested positive for the strain in Karnataka after returning from South Africa. A 20-year-old Italian resident also tested positive in Chandigarh. A man who recently returned from Ireland also tested positive for Omicron in Andhra Pradesh.
India had reported its first two Omicron cases in Karnataka's Bengaluru on December 2. Since then, India has detected 18 Omicron cases in Maharashtra, nine in Rajasthan, three in Gujarat, two in Delhi, and one each in Andhra Pradesh and Chandigarh.
"A new variant doesn't mean that things will be worse, but definitely, they will be more uncertain," World Health Organization Regional Director for South East Asia, Dr. Poonam Khetrapal, told NDTV. She said people should not let their guard down, especially in South Asia. "We must continue to strengthen surveillance, public health, and social measures, and rapidly scale up vaccination coverage," she added.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in Assam's Dibrugarh district has developed a diagnostic kit that can detect the Omicron variant in a matter of two hours. With the available kits, it currently takes three to four days to discover the variant.
The "extremely transmissible" Omicron strain has spread to over 60 countries. However, no deaths have been associated with the strain so far. In Asia, India, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and South Korea have all spotted the new strain. In order to prepare for a surge, the WHO issued a warning to countries in the Asia-Pacific region to fully vaccinate their citizens.