The new Covid-19 variant 'Omicron' is making its move across the Indian states, alarming the country that it is on the verge of witnessing the emergence of what possibly would become the third wave of the pandemic. Though the country has shielded itself with the record number of Covid-19 vaccinations, the Omicron variant is posing a threat with its characteristics of spreading more rapidly than the variants reported in the country before. Omicron was first reported in South Africa on November 24 and it was designated as a Variant of Concern.
In a week, the variant had entered a dozen of countries including India, which reported its first case on December 2, where two people were confirmed to have contracted the variant in Karnataka. Within days, the variant has spread in many states. On Sunday alone, India has reported 17 fresh cases of the Omicron variant where nine persons in Jaipur, seven in Maharashtra's Pune district, and one in Delhi had tested positive. As the cases of variant soar, India has reported 21 cases of Omicron variant so far as of Sunday.
According to reports, most of those who had tested positive either arrived from the African countries recently or had come in contact with such people. In Delhi, a 37-year-old man had tested positive for the variant though has been fully vaccinated. He had arrived at the capital from Tanzania recently. He is a resident of Ranchi and had travelled from Tanzania to Doha and from there, he took a Qatar Airways flight and arrived in Delhi on December 2.
It has been reported that he had stayed in Johannesburg, South Africa for a week. He had arrived in Delhi and he has given his sample at the airport, which has confirmed that he had contracted the Omicron variant. He has been admitted to Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital in Delhi for further course of treatment. As he has been hospitalized, the authorities have initiated the measure to locate the people who had occupied seats on the flight close to him and to isolate them.
Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain has said that 17 Covid-19 patients and six of their contacts have been admitted to the Lok Nayak Hospital so far and the Omicron variant has been detected in one of the 12 samples sent for genome sequencing. He further said suspending International flights would be the most effective measure to mitigate the spread of the Omicron variant and appealed to the people to adhere to the Covid-19 protocols.
The nine people who had tested positive in Jaipur, Rajasthan include four members of a family who had returned from South Africa recently. Rajasthan Health Secretary Vaibhav Galriya has said, "Genome sequencing has confirmed that nine persons are infected with the Omicron variant." On the other hand, the seven new cases in Maharashtra include a woman who, along with her two daughters, came from Nigeria and the state health department has said the total number of confirmed Omicron cases in Maharashtra has gone up to eight now.
Amid growing cases of Omicron, India has been issued with a big warning that the country should prepare to fight the third wave. Speaking to ANI on Saturday, Dr Vikas Bhatia of AIIMS said, "It is very difficult to predict because, and even at this point of time when more than 30 countries have reported one or more cases, we are still waiting for some more information. So, in this phase, we should be preparing ourselves that a third wave may come but at the same time, it may be good news in case we find that this particular virus Omicron is not very fatal. So far, no death has been reported from any part of the world."
He had indicated that the variant has high transmissibility, yet the fatality rate is low. The Union government has on Saturday written to five states - Odisha, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Mizoram, and Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir in which it has expressed concern over a rapid increase in daily Covid cases and mortality rate and highlighted the danger posed by the Omicron variant. So far, four states - Karnataka (2 cases), Gujarat (1 case), Rajasthan (9 cases), and Maharashtra (8 cases) and the national capital region (1 case) had reported the Omicron cases.