Amid a heightened level of concern over the superspreader variant, the Centre on Tuesday advised states and UTs to ramp up testing, asserting that the Omicron can’t hide.
Existing COVID tests – the RT-PCR and RAT -- can pick up traces of the Omicron strain, the government said on Tuesday, as Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya told Parliament the new variant had not yet been detected in India.
He further asserted that the government has taken steps to ensure that it does not reach the country. The strict norms for international passengers arriving in the country, especially from 'at-risk' countries, came into effect from midnight as part of the government's efforts to keep the variant at bay.
The Thane Municipal Corporation traced seven people in the city limits who recently returned from South Africa. They were subjected to an RT-PCR test and all were found to be negative. While two of the seven had been in the city for 14 days, the five others, including four from a single-family, have been asked to quarantine, on the side of caution.
Only a 40-year-old male who had returned to Mumbai from South Africa on November 25 has tested COVID positive, following which he has been admitted at the Seven Hills hospital in Marol. Officials said the traveller was asymptomatic and they have also tracked his high-risk and close contacts whose samples have been sent for RT-PCR test. “He is one among 100 travellers whose samples were taken for RT-PCR after they had returned from South Africa and other ‘at risk’ countries. He was also checked for the ‘S’ gene which is found in those infected with Omicron.
To be on the safe side, his sample has been also sent for genome sequencing at Kasturba and the report will be out by Friday” said Suresh Kakani, Additional Municipal Commissioner. But five more passengers who had arrived from South Africa and other ‘high-risk’ countries in the state have tested positive. Of these, one each has been found in areas governed by the Kalyan-Dombivali Corporation, the Mira-Bhayandar Corporation and the Pune civic body; in addition, two passengers had arrived from Nigeria, who are residing in Pimpri Chinchwad corporation area.
All their samples have been sent for genetic sequencing and the contact tracing exercise is underway. In Karnataka, the state health minister said the ICMR report of the sample of one of the two South Africa returnees, who had tested COVID-19 positive with features "different from the Delta variant" of the virus, is expected in the next two to three days. The state has made it made mandatory for international travellers to undergo RT-PCR test and seven days’ home quarantine.