India on Saturday reported two new cases of the Omicron variant of coronavirus. While one of the cases was found in Gujarat, the other was reported from Maharashtra. With this, India has so far detected four patients with the new strain.
In Maharashtra, a 33-year-old man in Kalyan Dombivli town near Mumbai tested positive for the Omicron variant of coronavirus on Saturday, the health department said. He had developed mild symptoms upon returning from South Africa on November 24.
Meanwhile, his 12 primary contacts and 23 secondary contacts have tested negative for the virus.
This is the fourth case of Omicron in India.
Earlier on Saturday, a 72-year-old man was found to be infected with the Omicron variant of coronavirus in Gujarat’s Jamnagar after he returned from Zimbabwe, said the state health department, according to PTI. His samples were sent for genome sequencing after he tested positive for the virus on Thursday.
Zimbabwe has been designated as an “at risk” country in several Indian states because of its proximity to South Africa where the Omicron variant was first discovered.
On Thursday, two people in Karnataka were found to be infected with the new strain. One of them was a South African, who had flown out of India, and the other patient did not have any travel history.
The World Health Organization classified Omicron, also known as the B.1.1.529 strain, as a variant of concern on November 27. A variant of concern has the highest threat perception among other coronavirus variants because of its increased transmissibility, infectivity, or resistance to vaccines.
On Saturday, the 72-year-old Zimbabwe returnee was isolated and the area where he stays was converted into a micro containment zone, ANI reported.
“In the area [where the patient stays], we will do the tracing, testing of people,” said Manoj Aggarwal, the additional chief secretary of Gujarat’s Health and Family Welfare Department.
Following the discovery of the patient in Gujarat, Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel held a meeting to review the readiness of the state’s health system, ANI reported. He has asked the health officials to strictly implement the new guidelines issued by the Union government for combatting the Omicron variant in the states.
The Centre had issued several guidelines for travellers on Tuesday. According to the new rules, passengers coming from “at-risk” countries will be tested for Covid on arrival and they cannot leave the airport till their RT-PCR results are available. If tested negative, travellers have to be in home quarantine for seven days followed by a re-test on the eighth day. These rules came into effect on Wednesday.
According to the World Health Organization, the Omicron variant has about 45-52 mutations with 26-32 mutations in spike proteins. Spike proteins help a virus gain entry into the host cell. So, the higher number of mutations of the Omicron variant help the virus in a faster entry into human cells.
Some mutations that were found in the earlier detected Alpha, Delta, Gamma and Beta variants are also present in the Omicron strain. Initial data suggests Omicron has a faster growth rate and higher transmissibility compared to other variants. However, more evidence is required to confirm these characteristics.
So far, this variant has not resulted in an increase of cases with severe symptoms, or a rise in fatality rate. South Africa has noted an uptick in cases that needed hospitalisation. However, that could also be due to the rise in number of cases, and not increased virulence.