January 20, 2022

Omicron Covid Variant Highlights 2 December: ‘Conducting contact – The Indian Express

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Omicron Covid Variant Highlights: Union Health Ministry on Thursday said that two cases of Omicron variant have been discovered in the country. According to Joint Secretary of the Union Home Ministry Lav Agarwal, both cases have been identified in Karnataka.
“No severe symptoms of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 reported so far,” Agarwal said during a media briefing. “All Omicron related cases are found to have mild symptoms so far…In all such cases in the country and across the world so far, no severe symptom has been noted. WHO has said that its emerging evidence is being studied,” he added.
The potentially more contagious Omicron variant was first reported to the WHO from South Africa on November 24, and has been designated as a “Variant of Concern”.
Meanwhile, Zydus Cadila’s Covid-19 vaccine ZyCoV-D will initially be used in seven states — Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal — which have been recommended to identify the districts with a high number of of beneficiaries who have not received a single dose of a Covid vaccine for its introduction.
Scientific reasoning for booster vaccine doses for Covid-19 is under examination but the priority is to ensure complete vaccination of the eligible population with both doses, the government said on Thursday.
In a press briefing, in which the government also announced the detection of two cases of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 in India, Health Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said, “The scientific reasoning for boosters at what timing for which vaccine all that is under examination.” “Our priority is the complete task of administering both vaccines and this is the strategy which will give us the best dividend,” he said while responding to a question.
On the significance of vaccination in view of the new variant, NITI Aayog member (Health) Dr V K Paul said despite this new challenge, vaccination remains the most critical tool. “We are fortunate that we have the tool (vaccination) in plenty and there is no doubt that coverage of vaccines has to increase. Look at the big picture, we have this tool and we must protect every eligible individual with this tool,” he said.
“We are benefited by two doses and people should get the second dose as soon as possible. The decision on duration between doses is based on scientific data and local data in a systematic manner, and there is no change in the present duration,” Paul said. (PTI)
A night curfew has been imposed in the Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu as a precautionary measure to contain the spread of coronavirus in view of the concerns over the new Omicron variant of the virus, an official said on Thursday. Starting Thursday, the night curfew will be force between 11 pm and 6 am till December 31, said the order issued by the Health and Family Welfare department of the Union Territory administration.
Moreover, the previous guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) issued by the Centre and the UT administration to contain the spread of coronavirus will remain in effect till December 31 or till further orders, it said.
Earlier, a night curfew was imposed in the union territory in April following a sudden rise in the new coronavirus infections. However, the restrictions on the movement were lifted gradually after the situation came under control a few months back.
The order cited the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s recent advisory to all the states and UTs “for rigorous screening and testing of all international arrivals” in view of the “emergence of highly mutant COVID-19 variant B.1.1529 cases in few countries of Africa”. It further said that the “administration shall take intensive surveillance measures in accordance with the advisory and guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare”. (PTI)
The World Health Organization’s Africa director says quick detection and reporting of the new omicron variant of the coronavirus by Botswana and South Africa have “bought the world time” as nations are scramble to stop it from spreading.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said Thursday that “we have a window of opportunity but must act quickly and ramp up detection and prevention measures.” Much remains unknown about the new variant, including whether it is more contagious, as some health authorities suspect, whether it makes people more seriously ill, and whether it can thwart vaccines.
Moeti says countries “must adjust their COVID-19 response and stop a surge in cases from sweeping across Africa and possibly overwhelming already-stretched health facilities.” Africa Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention Director John Nkengasong told reporters at a separate briefing that the continent recorded 52,300 new COVID-19 cases compared to the previous week — a 105% increase.
He says about 31, 000 of the cases were reported in South Africa while the southern Africa region as a whole recorded a 153% increase in November.
The WHO says South Africa has confirmed 172 cases of omicron and Botswana 19. (AP)
A 46-year-old doctor at a private hospital in Bengaluru with no travel history and a 66-year-old South African national, who returned home last week, have been identified as the first two persons in whom the new Sars-Cov-2 variant, Omicron, has been detected in India. Both the cases were reported in Karnataka.
As many as five contacts of the doctor have also tested positive and quarantined in a government hospital in Bengaluru. Their samples have also now been sent for genome sequencing, state authorities said Thursday. A total of 218 contacts of the doctor have been tested and two primary contacts and three secondary contacts have tested positive, officials said. None of the 264 contacts of the South African national, who returned to South Africa via Dubai on November 27 after testing negative in Bengaluru, have tested positive for Covid 19, officials said.
The presence of the Omicron variant in an individual with no travel history has resulted in city officials issuing a warning of the possible existence of the variant in more people in the city. Both the individuals who tested positive were double vaccinated, officials said. Read More
Following criticism, Maharashtra has revised the travel restrictions it had imposed two days ago in the wake of the detection of the Omicron-19 variant. Now, international travellers coming from or having travel history in the last 15 days from the Omicron-specific three ‘high risk- countries’ will have to undergo a mandatory seven-day institutional quarantine. Also, fully vaccinated domestic travellers can fly without RT-PCR negative report.
On Thursday, State Chief Secretary Debashish Chakraborty, acting on the request of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) Commissioner IS Chahal, relaxed some of the earlier imposed travel restrictions for international and domestic passengers in the state. Read More
Concerns over the Omicron variant seem to have jacked up the demand for vaccination in Kerala. Health Minister Veena George said the number of people turning up for vaccination has increased amid reports of the new Covid-19 variant.
Meanwhile, India reported its first two Omicron cases on Thursday. Both are in Kerala’s neighbouring state Karnataka.
The Kerala government has also launched a two-week special vaccination drive that began December 1. “The drive is meant to trace those who haven’t yet taken the first dose and get them vaccinated. Also, steps would be taken to complete the second dose for those who took the first jab,’’ said George.
She said those refusing to get vaccinated on flimsy grounds would be denied free treatment. The state has a stock of eight lakh doses and has requested more supplies for the special drive, she said. Read More
The Centre Thursday announced that two cases of Covid variant Omicron have been detected through genomic surveillance in Karnataka. The government spelled out its strategy to tackle the new variant of concern –and also answered on contentious issues of the efficacy of vaccines and booster doses.
What did the Centre tell about the severity of disease in the two persons detected with the Omicron variant?
The Centre said the symptoms are mild as of now. “In the cases of Omicron detected in the country, we are not seeing any severe symptoms,” Luv Aggarwal, Joint Secretary, Union Health Ministry said. This is in line with data emerging from other countries that while Omicron is found to be more transmissible, the patients have mild symptoms.
What has the Centre said about the effectiveness of vaccines?
ICMR DG Dr Balram Bhargava highlighted that at present it is premature to comment on the effectiveness of the vaccines against the new variant of concern — and that the Indian scientists have to isolate the Omicron variant, culture, and test it in laboratory settings to ascertain the effectiveness. (Read More)
Kerala on Thursday recorded 4,700 fresh Covid-19 cases and 320 deaths, raising the caseload to 51,40,090 and the toll to 40,855 respectively, the State government said. Of the 320 deaths, 66 were reported over the last few days and 254 were designated as Covid-19 deaths after receiving appeals based on the new guidelines of the Centre and the directions of the Supreme Court, an official press release said.
Among the 14 districts, Thiruvananthapuram recorded the highest with 850 fresh cases followed by Ernakulam 794 and Kozhikode 612. Of the new cases, 40 were health workers, 18 from outside the State and 4,437 infected through contact with the source of it not being clear in 205.
There are currently 1,55,639 people under surveillance in various districts, of whom 1,50,837 are in home or institutional quarantine and 4,802 in hospitals, the release said. (PTI)
Union Health Ministry on Thursday said that two cases of Omicron variant have been discovered in the country. Here’s what we know so far: 
* Both cases of Omicron Covid variant have been found in Karnataka.
* While one case is of a male aged 46, the other is of a male aged 66.
* No severe symptoms have been reported in both patients
* Govt says all primary and secondary contacts of the two patients were traced and were being tested.
* The Health Ministry has urged people not to panic and follow Covid-appropriate behaviour. 
“We need not panic about Omicron detection but awareness is absolutely essential. Follow Covid-appropriate behaviour and avoid gatherings,” a Health Ministry official said during the media briefing on Thursday. 
“It is too early to assess whether Omicron causes more severe infection or less compared to variants, including Delta,” the official told the press conference quoting the World Health Organisation which has designated the new variant as a ‘variant of concern’. (PTI)
The Union Health Ministry Thursday said that following the detection of the two Omicron cases through the INSACOG network, all their primary and secondary contacts were traced in time and were being tested.
During a media briefing, VK Paul, Member-Health, NITI Aayog said that an increase in Covid-19 vaccine uptake is ‘need of the hour’ and urged people to not delay in getting fully vaccinated.
Increased COVID-19 vaccine uptake need of the hour, do not delay in getting fully vaccinated, says VK Paul, Member-Health, NITI Aayog pic.twitter.com/gF0qiMC9KW
“No severe symptoms of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 reported so far,” Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said during a media briefing. “All Omicron related cases are found to have mild symptoms so far…In all such cases in the country and across the world so far, no severe symptom has been noted. WHO has said that its emerging evidence is being studied,” he added.
@MoHFW_INDIA : The symptoms are mild in persons tested positive with Omicron variant @IndianExpress
The Health Ministry on Thursday confirmed that two cases of the Omicron Covid variant have been found in Karnataka.
While one case is of a male aged 46, the other is of a male aged 66. “Omicron variant was confirmed by genome sequencing,” Joint Secretary of the Union Home Ministry Lav Agarwal said.
Union Health Ministry on Thursday said that two cases of Omicron variant have been discovered in the country. Both cases are in Karnataka.
Breaking : @MoHFW_INDIA confirms that 2 cases of Omicron variant have been found positive in Karnataka @IndianExpress
Greeks who are over age 60 and refuse coronavirus vaccinations will be hit with monthly fines of more than one-quarter of their pension, a get-tough policy that could prove risky for the country’s politicians. In Israel, potential carriers of the new omicron variant could be tracked by the nation’s formidable spy agency in seeming defiance of a Supreme Court ruling from the last go-round.
Weekly protests in the Netherlands over the country’s 5 pm lockdown and other new restrictions have descended into violence, despite what appears to be overwhelming acceptance of the new rules.
With the delta variant of COVID-19 pushing up cases in Europe, and growing fears over the omicron variant, governments around the world are weighing new measures for populations tired of hearing about restrictions and vaccines. Read more
Maharashtra Chief Secretary Debashish Chakravarty on Thursday said the state government was  considering a revision of its air travel guidelines, a day after the Centre wrote to the state saying its order was in divergence with the COVID-19 SoPs and guidelines issued by the Union government. 
In view of global concerns over the Omicron variant, Maharashtra has mandated seven-day institutional quarantine for travellers arriving in the state from ‘at-risk’ countries, under the guidelines issued by the State Disaster Management Authority on Tuesday night. Such passengers will also undergo RT-PCR test on the second, fourth and seventh day of arrival. If found to be COVID-19 positive, the passenger will be shifted to a hospital. In case the test is negative, the passenger will still have to undergo seven-day home quarantine. 
Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan on Wednesday, in a letter addressed to Maharashtra Health and Family Welfare Department’s Additional Chief Secretary Pradeep Kumar Vyas, asked the state to align its order with the SOPs issued by the Centre.
A few days after the Karnataka government made it mandatory for all international passengers arriving at airports and seaports in the state to undergo RT-PCR testing after cases of the Omicron variant were identified in a few countries, the state government has rolled back the decision to “strictly abide by the testing protocol mandated by the Centre.”
Principal Secretary (Health and Family Welfare) T K Anil Kumar told The Indian Express that only 2 per cent of the international passengers arriving from non-risk countries will be subjected to RT-PCR testing on arrival. “Two per cent of travellers, from countries excluding those listed as ‘high-risk’ where Omicron cases have been confirmed, in each flight shall be identified by the concerned airlines for RT-PCR testing. We are strictly abiding by the guidelines issued by the Union Health Ministry,” he explained.
The Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport on Thursday said four passengers coming from ‘at-risk’ countries — three from Paris and one from London — have tested positive for Covid-19. On Wednesday, four other passengers — three from Amsterdam and one from London — had tested positive for Covid-19. 
All the passengers who tested positive were sent to Lok Nayak hospital for treatment. 
A senior Delhi government official told The Indian Express: “A total of six sensitive flights landed in Delhi from Wednesday 10 pm to Thursday 6 am. The passengers came from Paris, Frankfurt, London and Moscow. Four of them tested positive for Covid-19 and have been sent for treatment. They will be tested for Omicron.”
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday that travel restrictions imposed over Covid-19 that isolate any one country or region as “not only deeply unfair and punitive – they are ineffective.” Speaking to reporters in New York, Guterres said the only way to reduce the risk of transmission while allowing for travel and economic engagement was to repeatedly test travelers, “together with other appropriate and truly effective measures.” (Reuters)
A woman receives a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccine centre, in Soweto. The World Health Organization has urged countries not to impose flight bans on southern African nations due to concerns over the new omicron variant. (AP)
Omicron was first reported on Nov. 24 in southern Africa, where infections have risen steeply. It has since spread to more than a dozen countries, many of which have imposed travel restrictions to try to seal themselves off.
Earlier this week, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Monday that the heavily mutated Omicron coronavirus variant was likely to spread internationally and poses a very high risk of infection surges that could have “severe consequences” in some places.
On Tuesday, health officials in the Netherlands said the heavily mutated new coronavirus variant was in Europe several days earlier than previously known.
The Netherlands’ National Institute for Public Health and the Environment said that samples taken on Nov. 19 and Nov. 23 — before the Nov. 24 announcement of omicron’s existence — tested positive for the variant.
Mutations in the omicron variant strongly suggest that it is more contagious than previous forms of the virus, scientists say. They caution that they cannot be sure without more testing and data, but the evidence so far is sobering. More information on the variant is likely to emerge in the coming week.

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