First cases of new Omicron subvariants detected in India
The first cases of the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 have been found in Tamil Nadu and Telangana, respectively, the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) confirmed on Sunday. The INSACOG said a 19-year-old woman in Tamil Nadu was found infected with the BA.4 subvariant. Meanwhile, an 80-year-old man in Telangana tested positive for the BA.5 subvariant.
- Experts had attributed the sharp surge in India's COVID-19 cases in January to the Omicron variant.
- Omicron is a heavily mutated variant that is very contagious and can evade immunity from prior infection or vaccination.
- The BA.4 subvariant was first detected on January 10, 2022, in Limpopo, South Africa, while BA.5 was first discovered on February 25 in KwaZulu-Natal, also in South Africa.
"Contact tracing of the BA.4 and BA.5 patients is being undertaken as a precautionary measure," the INSACOG stated. Both the affected man and the woman, who were fully vaccinated and had no travel history, showed only mild clinical symptoms. Before this, a South African traveler was reported positive for the BA.4 variant on arrival at the Hyderabad airport, the INSACOG noted.
According to data submitted to the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID), in the past four weeks, nearly 97.2% of samples from India were of the Omicron variant. "Suspected recombinant sequences are under further analysis," the INSACOG said. Additionally, Delta and Kappa variants are also currently in circulation in India with about 1.5% and 0.5% of the samples showing positive results, respectively.
With a marginal decline in COVID-19 cases, India reported 2,022 fresh cases in the past 24 hours, the Union Health Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said on Monday morning. In the same period, the country has reported 46 COVID-19-related deaths. The active caseload of the country stands at 14,832 cases, while 2,099 patients have recovered in the said duration.