As India reported its first two cases of the new Covid-19 variant Omicron in Karnataka on Thursday, the Union Health Ministry made it clear that the development will not lead to any change in the gap between two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Addressing a press briefing, VK Paul, Member, Health, NITI Aayog, said, “There is no plan to change dose gap because of the detection of Omicron in Karnataka.” He also stressed vaccination and the need to wear a mask, saying that it’s “the most critical tool to fight the new variant". Paul further said the government would deal with the new situation through science and experience. On a question on booster shots, Paul said scientific reasoning for the booster is currently being examined.
In the first confirmation of the coronavirus strain in the country, two males, aged 66 and 46, have tested positive for the new variant. Contact tracing is being done for primary and secondary contacts and samples of 10 passengers have been collected for Genome Surveillance, the ministry said.
“We need to panic but following Covid appropriate behaviour is very important. People must not delay in getting themselves fully vaccinated,” said Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Director-General Balram Bhargava.
“All Omicron related cases are found to have mild symptoms so far…In all such cases in the country and across the world so far, no severe symptom has been noted. WHO has said that its emerging evidence is being studied,” said Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary, Union Health Ministry.
Agarwal refused to divulge details of the two cases citing privacy concerns.
The ministry said that landscape of circulating variants in India showed a dominance of Delta (B.1.617.2) over other variants since April 2021.
“We don’t have all answers today but our scientists and labs are working on it. Will deal with the new situation through science and experience. Countries that took the virus lightly are seeing things get back to worse. We need to wear a mask,” said Dr VK Paul, Member, Health, Niti Aayog.
Talking about a possible ban on international flights in the face of the two cases, Paul said, “The Omicron variant of Covid-19 is being carefully examined. We will take the decisions on the basis of it. It’s an ongoing discussion within our technical and scientific circles.”
Maharashtra and Kerala are the only two states in the country that currently have more than 10,000 active cases of Covid-19, said Lav Aggarwal, Joint Secretary, Union Health Ministry. Of the total cases reported in the last one week, 54 per cent were detected in Kerala, he added.
There are currently 99,763 active cases of covid in the country and in the last 24 hours, 9,765 new cases were reported. The average daily cases go up to 8,808 and the case positivity rate stands at 0.89 per cent, he said.