On Saturday, the third Omicron case was detected in the second state in India within a fortnight of the variant first being reported. With the Gujarat's health department conforming one more Omicron case in India, it also confirmed the worst fears as true.
That the variant of concern has reached India and its true nature of transmissibility can only be known in the coming weeks.
As reported in the news agency PTI, the infected person is a 72-year-old man who has a travel history. He had just returned to Jamnagar city of Gujarat from Zimbabwe. Earlier this week, the country's first two Omicron cases were reported from Karnataka.
Five states on high alert
Taking stock of the situation and the need to act urgently on the part of the authorities, the Centre on Saturday wrote to five states, namely Odisha, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Mizoram and the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir. The five states and the UT in question have recorded a rapid increase in daily reported Covid cases.
The timeline of Covid variant poses a high degree of underlying risk in these states. The letter signed by the Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan urged these states to enhance surveillance of foreign arrivals, monitor emerging hot spots and ensure that all samples of Covid patients are sent for genome sequencing.
Earlier on Friday, the Centre had asked all the states to monitor any outbreak in clusters and indulge in contract tracing of Covid positive patients. Among those flagged in the recent letter, is J&K's Kathua district reported a worrying 727% increase in new cases between the time period of November 26 and December 2, when compared to the previous week. In the same period, in Karnataka's (where the first two cases of India have been reported) Tumkur district cases increased by a staggering 152 per cent.
Sudden spikes, a cause for concern
Similar sudden spikes during the same period have also been seen in Mizoram districts, namely Saiha (237 per cent) and six Odisha districts, including Dhenkanal which saw a whopping rise of 667%, noted the government.
However, overall cases on India have been consistently on a steady decline since May when the daily caseload peaked at over 4 lakh cases in India. On Saturday, India reported 8,603 new cases of Covid-19 infections taking the total tally of the nation to 3,46,24,360. The cumulative vaccine doses administered, so far, in the country stand at over 126.53 crores.
S Ponnambalam, DM, Darjeeling, confirmed receiving standard operating procedures on the Omicron variant and how the restrictions will be put in place at Bagdogra airport in coordination with the AAI. He also mentioned intensifying mask enforcement activities and covid tests.
WHO on Omicron variant
After terming it a 'variant of concern', World Health Organisation on Friday said that the variant has been detected in 38 countries so far but no deaths have been reported. But how infectious is the heavily mutated virus and the severity of the illness it causes can only be known in the coming weeks.