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Omicron: No cause for panic, says Maharashtra Minister

Clarifying that there was no case of the Omicron variant reported from the State as yet, Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope on Wednesday said the authorities were alert and there was no need to panic.

Mr. Tope’s remarks came after six international passengers, who arrived from South Africa and other “high-risk” countries, have tested COVID-19 positive. He said the samples of these passengers had been sent for genome sequencing and were expected in the next four-five days.

The Health Department said while two of the passengers returned to the Pimpri-Chinchwad civic body, the others were traced to Mumbai, Kalyan-Dombivali, Mira-Bhayandar Corporation and Pune.

Authorities said all of them are either “asymptomatic” or “mildly symptomatic”.

Also Read: Omicron variant doesn’t escape RTPCR, RAT, says Health Ministry

Samples sent for genetic sequencing

“All their samples have been sent for genetic sequencing and their contact tracing exercise is under way. Genetic changes/mutation in viruses is a natural phenomenon and people should not panic,” said the Department.

Pune district authorities said of the three in the district who tested positive (one in Pune civic body limits and two in Pimpri-Chinchwad), two came back from Nigeria and one from Zambia.

“There is no need to panic or make haste. There is no prevalence of the Omicron variant in the State or the country at this stage…The Delta variant, too, is absolutely under control with the State barely reporting 700-800 cases daily,” Mr. Tope said.

He said as per the opinions of South Africa’s medical experts, which were in turn shared by the Maharashtra’s task force members, there was no indication that Omicron was especially virulent.

“While the new variant may be more infectious, there is nothing to indicate that it is virulent or that hospitals in South Africa are being overwhelmed by patients or that fatalities are on the rise.”

He said experts had said the RT-PCR test did identify the Omicron variant and that there was no clinching evidence to suggest it “escaped” double vaccination.

“The World Health Organization, which is studying the phenomenon, has not yet clearly expressed whether the variant eludes vaccination or whether we need to upgrade our vaccines. Only after we receive fresh guidelines from the WHO and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) can we decide whether a booster dose is needed and whether vaccination for children needs to begin on a massive scale,” said Mr. Tope.

Rules tightened

Observing that the State had tightened rules for international passengers arriving at the Mumbai airport, the Health Minister exhorted the public to strictly adhere to COVID-19 appropriate behaviour.

“All protocols like RT-PCR on disembarking and seven-day quarantining of international passengers are being followed. The Maharashtra Government is focused on screening and testing of these passengers. We are also planning to increase genome sequencing labs,” Mr. Tope said.

The Minister said approximately 82% of the State’s population had taken their first dose and 44% their second dose.


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Printable version | Jan 22, 2022 12:14:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/omicron-no-cause-for-panic-says-maharashtra-minister/article37788093.ece

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