First Omicron circumstances detected: 2 Karnataka samples present pressure

THE UNION Health Ministry mentioned Thursday that Omicron, the newest Covid variant of concern, has been detected for the primary time in India in two circumstances from Karnataka by genomic surveillance.

The Ministry, nonetheless, confused that there was no must panic, known as for strict adherence to Covid-appropriate behaviour and urged everybody to undertake the “universal vaccine” of sporting masks to deal with the brand new problem.

“Two cases of the Omicron variant have been found positive. The first is a 66-year-old male and the other is a 46-year-old male… Mostly in all the cases related to Omicron, at present, the symptoms are mild. In the cases of Omicron detected in the country, we are not seeing any severe symptoms,” Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary, Health Ministry, mentioned.

Dr V Ok Paul, who heads the nation’s Covid job drive, mentioned India is following a two-pronged technique. “First, we have increased our surveillance on international travel. We have (the strategy of) test, track and treat. Second, inside the country, we have to watch the new clusters, hospitalisations, cases, with higher intensity,” he mentioned.

Paul additionally mentioned that the scientific reasoning for offering booster doses is “under examination”, though the main focus is to first totally vaccinate the inhabitants.

Referring to the 2 circumstances of Omicron, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) chief Dr Balram Bhargava urged the general public to not panic. “There is no need to panic. But awareness is absolutely essential. Covid-appropriate behaviour is required. The use of masks, hand hygiene, and not going to mass gatherings, will help break the chain of transmission of Omicron,” he mentioned.

Responding to a query on the effectiveness of current vaccines in opposition to the brand new variant, Bhargava mentioned it’s “premature” to take a name on the difficulty.

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“Scientific understanding is that whole killed virion based vaccines may have a wider antigenic presentation and broad spectrum of effect against the new emergent variants. But we have detected only two Omicron cases and unless we isolate the virus, culture the virus, and test the virus in a laboratory setting, it is premature to comment on the effectiveness of the vaccine,” he mentioned.

Whole killed virion based mostly vaccines are these through which the virus is inactivated. When an inactivated vaccine enters the physique, it makes antibodies at a number of goal factors.

Theoretically, such vaccines have the potential to focus on mutated coronavirus strains. Of the three vaccines deployed thus far in India — Covishield, Covaxin and Sputnik — solely Covaxin falls on this class.

Dr Paul, in the meantime, emphasised that vaccination stays “the most critical tool”. “We are fortunate that we have that tool in plenty. There is no doubt we have to increase the coverage of vaccination. At this point, science tells us that we have to use vaccines. The new variant may dent the efficacy of the vaccine, to some extent. We said the same thing about Delta. It does not matter. We need to look at the big picture. Through full vaccination, we need to protect every individual. We cannot have any backlog of the second dose,” he mentioned.

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Paul additionally mentioned there isn’t any requirement for any lockdown. Instead, he mentioned, it’s much more vital to strictly undertake the “universal vaccine” of masks.

“There should not be fear but responsibility. It is an unfolding situation. We are learning. But we are ready in every way. This is the mantra we will take forward…The countries that are taking masking very lightly are seeing a surge in cases. Masking is very important. People should avoid crowds and gather only in very well ventilated spaces,” he mentioned.

Asked concerning the coverage on booster doses, Paul mentioned: “We are closely studying the imperatives…It is an ongoing exercise in our technical and scientific circles. All that is being carefully examined. As the situation unfolds and more scientific evidence emerges (on Omicron), we will take decisions in the future.”

On Wednesday, The Indian Express reported that well being authorities in South Africa, the place the primary ever circumstances of Omicron have been detected, have conveyed to specialists in India that they’re witnessing “very low hospitalisation” straight linked to the brand new variant — however it’s “highly transmissibile” with sufferers experiencing excessive fatigue even with gentle illness.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has assessed international threat from the newly found variant as “very high”.