Two COVID-19 cases of the Omicron variant have been detected in India, the Health Ministry said on Thursday, in the first confirmation of the coronavirus strain within the country’s borders that has triggered global alarm.
Both the cases have been reported in Karnataka with the patients being two foreigners aged 66 and 46, the Health Ministry’s Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal told a news briefing, adding that their identities will not be disclosed for now to protect their privacy.
All people who came in contact with the two men have been traced and are being tested, he said, adding that both the cases are mild and there are no severe symptoms so far.
“There is no need to panic about the Omicron detection but awareness is absolutely essential. Follow Coivd-appropriate behaviour, avoid gatherings,” Mr Agarwal said.
Early indications have suggested the heavily-mutated Omicron may be markedly more contagious than previous variants, however, there has been no evidence of the strain any deadlier.
“There will be no drastic curbs any time soon. The situation is well under control,” Dr VK Paul, chief of the centre’s COVID-19 task force, said.
India was set to restart scheduled commercial international flights on Dec 15, but on Wednesday scrapped that plan and said a resumption date would be announced in due course.
The government has advised states to ramp up testing, a week after the health ministry said a recent fall in testing could undermine India’s efforts to contain the pandemic.
After battling a record jump in infections and deaths in April and May, coronavirus cases have come down substantially in India, where the Delta variant is the dominant strain.
The country reported 9,765 new cases on Thursday, taking its total to 34.61 million. Only the United States has reported more.