Coronavirus Updates | November 30, 2021

Health worker taking COVID -19 sample test in Vellore. File Image.   | Photo Credit: Venkatachalapathy C.

India logged 6,990 new coronavirus infections, the lowest in 551 days, taking the country’s total tally of COVID-19 cases to 3,45,87,822, while the active cases have declined to 1,00,543, the lowest in 546 days, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Tuesday.

You can track coronavirus cases, deaths and testing rates at the national and State levels here. A list of State Helpline numbers is available as well.

Here are the latest developments:


No Omicron cases in India: Health Minister

COVID-19 variant Omicron has not been reported in India yet, Union Health minister Mansukh Mandaviya informed Parliament on Tuesday. He said that while the variant has been found in 14 countries so far there is no case in India.

"We are immediately checking suspicious cases and conducting genome sequencing. We are also taking all possible precautions,” he said in the Rajya Sabha during the Winter Session of Parliament. He added that India has learned a lot during the pandemic.

The Minister also noted that the Central Government has issued an advisory based on the global developments related to the new variant and is keeping a keen watch on all entry points.

- Bindu Shajan Perappadan

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Omicron was in Netherlands days earlier than first thought

The omicron variant was already in the Netherlands when South Africa alerted the World Health Organization about it last week, Dutch health authorities said Tuesday, adding to fear and confusion over the new version of the coronavirus in a weary world hoping it had left the worst of the pandemic behind.

The Netherlands' RIVM health institute found omicron in samples dating from November 19 and 23. The WHO said South Africa first reported the the variant to the UN healthy agency on November 24.

- AP


First French omicron case on Indian Ocean island of Reunion

French authorities confirmed the first case of the new variant of the coronavirus on Tuesday in the French island territory of Reunion in the Indian Ocean.

French government spokesman Gabriel Attal gave the confirmation in an interview with Europe1 radio station.

Patrick Mavingui, a microbiologist at the island’s research clinic for infectious diseases, said the person who has tested positive for the new variant is a 53-year-old man who had traveled to Mozambique and stopped in South Africa before returning to Reunion.

The man was placed in quarantine. He has “muscle pain and fatigue,” Mr. Mavingui said, according to public television Reunion.-AP


Mumbai, Pune municipal admins extend school closure over Omicron concerns

Despite the Maharashtra government earlier announcing that schools for classes 1 to 7 would begin from December 1, rising concerns of the Omicron COVID-19 variant have led authorities of the Mumbai and Pune civic bodies to keep schools under the municipal jurisdictions shut till December 15.

Nashik municipal authorities have already said that schools in the Nashik Municipal corporation (NMC) will remain closed till December 10.

Earlier today, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation Iqbal Singh Chahal announced the decision following a meeting with educational department authorities.

"Since the last three days, the threat of the Omicron variant has emerged strongly. We have received reports that in South Africa, 10% of the infected population are below 18 years of age. So, given that children of classes 1 to 7 fall in this age group, as a matter of abundant precaution, we have decided to keep schools falling under the BMC closed till December 15,” Mr. Chahal said.

Following an emergency meeting in the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), between the PMC Commissioner Vikram Kumar, Mayor Murlidhar Mohol and other authorities, it was decided to keep schools under the PMC jurisdiction shut till December 15.- Shoumojit Banerjee


Bommai hints at more precautionary steps amid fresh COVID concerns, rules out lockdown

Indicating more precautionary measures amid fresh COVID-19 concerns, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Tuesday said his government was taking utmost precautions, but ruled out the possibility of lockdown in the State.

With new clusters emerging in the state and threats of new variant 'Omicron' looming large, he said the government has to manage things at two levels to control the further spread of the pandemic.

"Instructions have been given to increase the number of tests per day. The Health Minister will be holding a meeting with officials and experts, the outcome of which will be shared with me, following which we may take certain decisions keeping in view the current circumstances," Mr. Bommai said.- PTI


COVID-19 guidelines extended till December 31

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) extended the COVID-19 guidelines issued under the Disaster Management Act, till December 31.

Asks States to go for “rigorous screening and testing of all international arrivals” considering the emergence of highly mutant COVID-19 variant B.1.1529 cases in few countries of Africa.

“Further the contacts of these international travelers must also be closely tracked and tested as per MoHFW guidelines and the samples of travelers turning positive are sent to the designated INSACOG Genome Sequencing Laboratories (IGSLs) promptly, as per the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) Guidance Document."- Vijaita Singh

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Japan confirms first case of Omicron variant of coronavirus

Japan has confirmed its first case of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, the Kyodo news agency reported on Tuesday, citing unidentified government sources.

Japan shut its borders to foreigners on Tuesday for at least a month, among the strictest measures in the world to halt entry of Omicron, recently discovered in southern Africa and declared a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organisation.

Health Minister Shigeyuki Goto said on Monday that a traveler from Namibia had tested positive for the coronavirus at the airport, and that further tests were needed to find out if it was from the new variant.- Reuters


Centre advises States to ramp up testing for early detection of cases

Amid mounting concerns over the potentially more contagious coronavirus variant Omicron spreading to many countries, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan held a review meeting with states and UTs on Tuesday and advised them to ramp up testing for early identification and management of cases.

While underlining that the new variant doesn’t escape RT-PCR and RAT tests, Mr. Bhushan asked States and UTs to ensure adequate infrastructure and supervised home isolation, a Union Health Ministry official said.

According to government officials, no case of the new Omicron variant of coronavirus has been detected in India yet.

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New Delhi

Kejriwal questions delay in banning international flights

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday questioned the delay in stopping flights from countries affected by Omicron variant of coronavirus.

Mr. Kejriwal had on Sunday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to stop flights coming to India from countries affected by the new variant with immediate effect.

"Several countries have stopped flights from Omicron affected countries. Why are we delaying it? We had delayed stopping international flights in the first wave also. Majority of flights land in Delhi. Delhi is most affected. Kindly stop the flights immediately," Mr. Kejriwal said in a tweet.- PTI

Health Ministry data

Country reports lowest number of new COVID-19 cases in 551 days

India logged 6,990 new coronavirus infections, the lowest in 551 days, taking the country’s total tally of COVID-19 cases to 3,45,87,822, while the active cases have declined to 1,00,543, the lowest in 546 days, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Tuesday.

The death toll climbed to 4,68,980 with 190 fresh fatalities, according to the data updated at 8 a.m.

The daily rise in new coronavirus infections has been below20,000 for 53 straight days and less than 50,000 daily new cases have been reported for 155 consecutive days now.

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Singapore says two travellers to Sydney with Omicron transited at Changi

Singapore's health ministry said two travellers from Johannesburg who tested positive for the Omicron coronavirus variant in Sydney, had transited through Changi airport.

The two individuals left Johannesburg on Nov. 27 on a Singapore Airlines flight and arrived at Changi on the same day for their transit flight, the ministry said in a statement. Both had tested negative for COVID-19 prior to departure, it added.

The ministry said most of the travellers had remained in the transit area at Changi Airport. Of the seven who disembarked, six had been placed on a 10-day stay at home notice, while the seventh, a close contact of an infected individual on the flight, had been quarantined.

"Contact tracing is ongoing for airport staff who may have come into transient contact with the cases," the ministry said.- Reuters


Nearly 1,000 passengers from South Africa arrived in Mumbai since November 10

Nearly 1,000 passengers from South Africa had landed at Mumbai International Airport since November 10, informed Aaditya Thackeray, the guardian minister for the Mumbai Suburban District on Monday while adding that the process of tracking and the contact tracing of these passengers had already begun.

“We do have information of all passengers who arrived in Mumbai from South Africa in the last few days. Those who landed here in the last ten days or so are being contacted by the municipal authorities for testing and are being questioned for any Covid-19 like symptoms,” Mr. Thackeray said, stating that arrangements are being made for institutional separation of passengers who tested positive.

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India offers support to Africa to fight variant

As Africa grapples with new coronavirus variant Omicron, India on Monday said it stands ready to support the affected countries in the continent including by supplying vaccines, life-saving drugs and test kits.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said supplies of vaccines can be undertaken through COVAX or bilaterally.

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Omicron variant poses very high global risk, says WHO

The heavily mutated Omicron coronavirus variant is likely to spread internationally and poses a very high risk of infection surges that could have “severe consequences” in some places, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.

Watch | All about the new Omicron coronavirus variant

No Omicron-linked deaths had yet been reported, though further research was needed to assess its potential to escape protection against immunity induced by vaccines and previous infections, it added.

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States gear up to implement new airport protocols

States across the country have scurried to implement the testing, tracing and quarantine for international passengers from a few countries where the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has been recorded, on advice from the Union Ministry of Health.

Some States have already implemented these procedures, while others will start implementing these restrictions from December 1, and some others are still awaiting instructions from the State government.

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Omicron risks spark calls for booster doses

With the emergence of Omicron and its virulence yet uncertain, concerns have emerged about whether a third dose of COVID vaccines should be administered in India.

The United States and the United Kingdom have approved booster doses for all adults, six months after the completion of their second dose. In the UK, however it is restricted to those 40 and above, or those with a clinical conditions that supress their natural immunity.

These recommendations build from research suggesting that two weeks after a booster, the chances of being protected from symptomatic COVID increases.

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Russia says Sputnik vaccine should work against Omicron, can produce boosters

Russia on Monday said it would be ready to provide booster shots to protect against the Omicron coronavirus variant if needed and the Kremlin said jittery market reaction to the new strain was emotional and not based on scientific data.

The heavily mutated Omicron variant sent investors scurrying for cover on Friday and the World Health Organization (WHO) has said it is likely to spread internationally, posing a very high risk of infection surges that could have severe consequences in some places.- Reuters

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