Close to 500 primary and secondary contacts of the first two cases of Omicron , the most mutated variant of COVID-19 virus, detected in India have been traced and five have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a document viewed by The Hindu . The contacts have been isolated and further investigations are on.
The men (46 and 66) are the first cases of the variant in India . According to the document, the 66-year-old double-vaccinated man who travelled with a negative report from South Africa had his sample collected at the Karnataka airport, on November 20, after which he checked into a hotel.
“Upon arrival he checked into a hotel on Nov. 20 and his test result was positive. He was asymptomatic and was advised to isolate himself at the hotel. He did a self-investigation in a private lab where he tested negative and checked out on Nov. 27 12:34 midnight and took a cab. He travelled to Dubai. The authorities have traced 24 primary and 240 secondary contacts for the traveller,” said the document.
The samples in the case of the 46-year-old man who had symptoms of fever and body-ache were collected at a hospital on November 22. He was under home isolation from November 22-24 and was later hospitalised from November 25 to 27 after which he was discharged following three days of treatment.
His primary contacts were traced to 13 persons and 205 secondary contacts. “Three primary and two secondary contacts have tested positive for COVID so far,’’ said the document.
“The variant, Omicron, has 45-52 amino acid changes (including deletions) across the whole genome, 26-32 changes in spike. RT-PCR test can be used as a marker for this variant, pending sequencing confirmation. Increased transmissibility, improved binding affinity make it easier for virus to attach to cells,’’ said the Health Ministry.
It said that preliminary data suggested that there were increasing rates of hospitalisation in South Africa, but this may reflect force of infection, rather than increased virulence.
Ashok Seth, chairman, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, in his tweet after the detection of Omicron in India said: “Cases of Omicron in India: but why the panic & fear? It is unfortunate that it has become the most dreaded thing even before we know enough. Till now experts from South Africa state that it is causing mild illness. And anyway double masking and double vaccination can protect us from the worst variants. So be proactive but don’t panic.”
Meanwhile, 18 districts in India continue to report a high weekly positivity between 5% and 10%, said the Health Ministry with nine districts of concern in Kerala — Alappuzha, Ernakulam, Idukki, Kannur, Kasaragod, Kollam, Palakkad, Pathanamthitta and Thrissur. It added that 79.16 crore (84.3% of the adult population) have so far received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as on December 2 and 45.92 crore (49% of the adult population) have got both the doses.