The city and State health machinery is on high alert after two persons tested positive for the Omicron variant of coronavirus in Bengaluru. The authorities have no clear answer as to how one of the patients, a 66-year-old African national who was isolated in a hotel on November 20, was allowed to fly to Dubai on November 27.
His samples were collected on November 22 and sent for genome sequencing. The patient also took another test with a private lab on November 23, which came back negative. He then proceeded to Dubai by taking a taxi from the hotel to Kempegowda International Airport on November 27.
When asked how the individual was allowed to leave with the results of genome sequencing yet to be declared, BBMP Chief Commissioner Gupta said: “I don’t think there was the issue of the Omicron variant, at least at the State level, then. I will be able to answer this only at a later stage.” He pointed out that all the 24 primary and 240 secondary contacts of the South African man tested negative.
K.V. Thrilokchandra, BBMP Special Commissioner (Health), said when the South African national tested negative, he left for Dubai on his own accord. “Omicron was still not clear then,” he maintained.
The second person, a 46-year-old man, who tested positive for Omicron, has sparked fears of community spread as he has no travel history. He is hospitalised and is said to be clinically stable, the civic chief said. He tested positive on November 22 after developing symptoms of fever and body ache. His samples were sent for genome sequencing, as he had low CT (cycle threshold) values, indicating a high viral load. `
“Experts have to determine how the person with no travel history tested positive for the Omicron variant,” said Mr. Gupta. He was hospitalised again as a precautionary measure after the results of the genome sequencing showed he had the strain
The BBMP has been able to trace and test 13 primary and 205 secondary contacts of the man, of whom three primary and two secondary tested positive on November 22 and 25. All those who tested positive have been isolated and the BBMP has taken up their contact tracing.
Incidentally, both persons who tested positive for Omicron had been fully vaccinated. Stating that earlier the results of genome sequencing would take months, Mr. Gupta said that the results are now declared in a week's time. “According to experts in South Africa, the Omicron variant is milder, but easily transmissible. It is therefore important for all citizens to adhere to COVID-19 appropriate behaviour and be vigilant,” he added.
Stating that the existing surveillance system was adequate, Mr. Gupta that the BBMP had already ramped up testing in the city. Speaking to reporters here on Friday, he said that the samples of international travellers and citizens who test positive, and have a high viral load are sent for genome sequencing.