BENGALURU: Of India's first two confirmed Omicron cases -- both reported in Karnataka -- one happens to be a Bengalurean with no travel history indicating a high probability of community spread having occurred already.
Karnataka Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar said, "The 46-year-old man who tested positive in Bengaluru is a medical doctor. He complained of tiredness, body ache and mild fever after which he voluntarily got himself tested and home isolated. His reports came positive but had a low CT (Cycle Threshold) value, indicating high virus load. We sent it for genome sequencing and it was confirmed to be Omicron."
Warning people to be watchful, BBMP commissioner Gaurav Gupta earlier said that the doctor's "13 primary contacts and 205 secondary contacts have been tested and of them, three primary and two secondary contacts have tested positive."
He emphasised that nobody should be complacent and everyone must ensure they follow all Covid norms.
Gupta said, "As this person has no travel history, there are chances that this may be there everywhere already. We have to be careful but not panic. It is necessary for the public to wear masks and get themselves vaccinated."
The doctor had recently attended a conference in the city along with many doctors from India and abroad.
According to the BBMP commissioner, the other person, a 66-year-old male is a South African and was in Bengaluru. He had tested positive at the Bengaluru International Airport on November 20. The genome sequencing results came on December 2 and confirmed the presence of the Omicron variant.
"He was isolated at a hotel and his 24 primary contacts and 240 secondary contacts were tested and all of them have tested negative. However, we have kept them under watch. The South African national got himself tested at another private lab and it came out negative. He had pre-planned engagements and left for Dubai after this," the commissioner explained.
Giving out more details, the commissioner said the 46-year-old Bengalurean man had tested positive on November 22. The sample showed a low CT value and on November 24 was sent to the NCBS lab for genome sequencing where the reports turned out to be positive for the Omicron variant.
The person who had been in home isolation since November 22 developed symptoms of fever and body ache on November 25. He was shifted to a government-designated hospital and discharged on November 27 after treatment.
"He has no travel history. His 13 primary and 205 secondary contacts have been tested and in that three primary contacts and two secondary contacts have tested positive. We have sent their samples for further sequencing and we are tracking their primary and secondary contacts too," explained Gaurav Gupta.
It may be noted that Dr Gagandeep Kang, renowned virologist and microbiologist from Christian Medical College, Vellore had expressed fears of the variant having already spread in the community and expressed the apprehension that the genome sequencing labs in India may not have identified it yet.
Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region, in her reaction the news said, "The confirmation of Omicron Variant of Concern today by India, the first two cases in WHO South-East Asia Region, was not unexpected in view of the interconnected world that we live in. This emphasizes on the need for all countries to step up surveillance, to be on alert and rapidly detect any importation and take measures to curtail further spread of the virus. The response measures for all variants, including Omicron, is the same as that for SARs CoV2. Comprehensive and tailored public health and social measures by governments, and strict adherence to preventive and precautionary measures by individuals, is a must. People must wear a well-fitting mask which covers their nose and mouth well, keep distance, avoid poorly ventilated or crowded spaces, keep hands clean, cover cough and sneeze and get vaccinated. And continue to take all precautionary measures even after getting vaccinated. All travelers must adhere to public health and social measures at all times and remain vigilant for signs and symptoms of COVID-19."
"Omicron variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Researchers around the world are conducting studies to better understand transmissibility, severity and immune escape capabilities of Omicron. WHO commends countries which have been able to quickly detect and report cases of the new Variant of Concern," she went on to add.