The Union Health Ministry on Thursday confirmed India's first two Omicron cases -- both in Karnataka.
One of the two infected people is a South African who had travelled to India. The other is a Bengalurean with no travel history.
The two who tested positive are aged 66 years and 46 years respectively. Both were doubly vaccinated and are asymptomatic.
Three primary and two secondary contacts of the duo who originally tested positive have tested positive too. We have sent all the samples for sampling. One is a travel history and the other has no travel history, the BBMP commissioner Gaurav Gupta said in Bengaluru.
The 66-year-old South African tested positive on November 20. The genome sequencing report confirmed the presence of Omicron on Thursday. He had been isolated in a hotel. 24 primary contacts and 240 secondary contacts were tested and all of them are negative. We have still kept them all under watch. In a separate lab, he got tested and was found to be negative. He flew out on November 27 for Dubai, the Commissioner said.
He also revealed that the second patient had passed on the infection to five others.
We had tested the 46-year-old Indian on November 22, he said. "The patient had low CT value. So, we sent the sample to NCBS lab and it was found to be positive for Omicron. He was in home isolation and then shifted to a government hospital. 13 primary and 205 secondary contacts have been tested. Of them, three primary and two secondary contacts have tested positive. We have kept them in isolation and their samples have been sent for genome sequencing," the BBMP commissioner added.
Balram Bhargava, Director General, ICMR, made the initial announcement in New Delhi, observing that "two cases of Omicron detected in Karnataka so far through genome sequencing effort of INSACOG consortium of 37 laboratories established by the Ministry of Health. We need not panic, but awareness is absolutely essential. COVID apt behaviour is required."
"All their contacts have been identified and they are under monitoring. The protocol is being followed," Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary, Union Health Ministry, said.
The first indications that India might have Omicron cases came on Monday when Karnataka Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar said the sample of one of the two South African nationals who had come to Bengaluru recently was "different from the Delta variant."
"There is a man who travelled from South Africa and his report is a bit different. It appears different from the delta variant," the minister had said.
The duo were isolated at hotels in Bengaluru’s BBMP limits and their samples were tested and the Bengaluru Rural Deputy Commissioner K Srinivas even announced that their samples had the ‘Delta variant’, not Omicron.
However, the samples were rechecked by the government laboratories under the INSACOG and samples were sent to ICMR for reconfirmation.
It has now been confirmed that it was the Omicron variant. However, more details are awaited about their travel history and where the duo are now isolated.
So far, around 29 countries have reported 373 cases of the Omicron variant.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified Omicron as a 'variant of concern'. According to the Union Health Minister, the COVID-19 situation is under control in India at present but the country is not free from this disease and Covid-appropriate behaviour should be followed.
The door-to-door vaccination drive is still on and about 70-80 lakh doses are being administered on a daily basis, he said, adding 124 crore doses of Covid vaccine has been administered so far in the country.
(With Online Desk inputs)