Two more cases of Omicron were reported in the country on Saturday, one each from Gujarat’s Jamnagar and Mumbai, taking the total to four. Both have mild symptoms of Covid. The first two cases of Omicron were reported from Bengaluru, of whom one flew out of the country.
One of those declared positive for the Omicron variant on Saturday is a 33-year-old who travelled to India from Cape Town in South Africa, arriving in Mumbai on November 24, via Dubai and Delhi. He is the first patient with the Omicron variant in Maharashtra. The second Omicron patient is a 72-year-old NRI who flew in from Zimbabwe on November 28, and is Gujarat’s first case.
While the 33-year-old has not taken any vaccination, the 72-year-old received only one dose of Sinovac, a vaccine developed in China.
Originally natives of Jamnagar, the 72-year-old flew and his wife were tested on arrival and their positive reports came on November 30. While the result of genome sequencing of the man’s sample from NIV Pune is awaited, said Dr S S Chatterjee, the nodal officer for Covid in Jamnagar, the Gujarat Biotechnology Research Centre to which the sample was sent had confirmed he had the Omicrant variant. Chatterjee said the 72-year-old, admitted to a hospital, had a mild case cough, cold and sore threat, and was now asymptomatic.
Maharashtra Additional Chief Secretary Dr Pradeep Vyas confirmed the state’s first Omicron case as a resident of Kalyan-Dombivali Municipal Corporation. “Only on November 24 (the day he arrived), he had fever but is now asymptomatic and healthy. He has been shifted to an isolation centre,” Pratibha Panpatil, Chief Medical Officer of the municipal corporation, said.
While 12 of the 33-year-old’s “high-risk” contacts, including his parents, and 23 “low-risk” contacts have tested negative, others are being traced. Twenty-five people who were in the Delhi-Mumbai flight with him have also tested negative.
Officials said the 33-year-old had a negative RT-PCR not more than 72 hours
prior to his departure from Cape Town. Upon landing at Delhi airport, he was tested, but before getting the result, he was allowed to fly to Mumbai. He got his result on landing in Mumbai, but despite it being Covid positive, he left the airport showing the earlier negative report. He took a private cab to travel some 50 km home, thus coming in contact with the driver and others.
Chatterjee said they would test the 72-year-old Jamnagar patient again in three-four days for Covid. “Even if his result is negative, the protocol requires that he remain isolated as a negative test does not mean the patient has stopped viral shedding,” he said.
A source said that the 72-year-old’s RT-PCR test did not report a missing S-gene. The WHO had said on November 26 that the missing gene could be a marker for Omicron’s presence.
Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel convened a high-level committee meeting, including Health Minister Rushikesh Patel, Home Minister Harsh Sangahvi, Chief Principal Secretary K Kailashanathan and Chief Secretary Pankaj Singh, to discuss the state’s first case of Omicron. Officials were told to strictly implement the new guidelines issued by the Central government and enforce “testing, tracking and treating”.
Officials said a 30-year-old NRI woman who landed at Ahmedabad from London on Friday night had tested positive for Covid. She is asymptomatic and in isolation in a hospital. The UK is among the countries categorised as ‘at-risk’ by the Centre. As per a UK Health Security Agency report, as of December 3, 104 cases of Omicron have been identified in England.
Ahmedabad Chief District Health Officer Satish Parmar said of the 222 passengers on the flight, only the 30-year-old woman, an American passport holder, tested positive. The sample has been sent for genome sequencing. Parmar added: “The woman had tested positive 10-12 days ago in the UK and then tested negative for Covid on December 1.”
Until Saturday morning, 3,839 passengers who arrived from ‘at-risk’ countries for Omicron had been tested at Mumbai airport. Since December 1, eight have tested positive for Covid and their samples sent for genomic sequencing. Field surveillance of all international passengers who have arrived since November 1 is underway.
The WHO has said it will take three-four weeks to determine the exact nature of Omicron. “The initial data has shown that the variant causes less severe disease. Due to mass immunisation and high prior exposure to Covid, the severity would be less. But due to high mutation, the cases of reinfection might be more,” said Dr Shashank Joshi, a member of the Maharashtra Covid task force.