India spots 3 cases of Omicron variant behind surge in China

New Delhi: India has so far seen three cases of the Omicron variant BF.7 that is spreading rapidly in China, and health authorities have started random sampling and testing of foreign travellers at Delhi airport, officials said on Wednesday.

Scientists said the BF.7 variant has been in circulation in India since September and covid cases are declining rapidly with low numbers of hospitalization and deaths.

According to government data, India has been witnessing a steady decline in cases with average daily cases falling to 158 in the week ending 19 December. However, a consistent rise has been reported globally in the last six weeks, with 590,000 daily average cases reported in week ending 19 December.

“In October, the first case of BF.7 in India was detected by Gujarat Biotechnology Research Centre. However, the case was present since the end of September. Now, two more cases from Gujarat and Odisha have been reported,” said scientists requesting anonmity.

Another official said, “Government has given direction for random sampling and testing of foreign travellers at Delhi airport arriving from countries like China, Japan and Korea. This will help to enhance surveillance.”

Health minister Dr Mansukh Mandaviya on Wednesday chaired a high-level meeting to review the covid-19 situation in view of the spike in cases in China, Japan, South Korea, France and the US.

Mandaviya directed for strengthening the surveillance system for whole-genome sequencing of positive case samples to track the variants through Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) network to ensure timely detection of newer variants. This would facilitate undertaking of appropriate public health measures. States/UTs have been requested to send samples of all covid-19 positive cases to INSACOG Genome Sequencing Laboratories (IGSLs) on a daily basis, for sequencing, to track new variants. The government has urged covid-appropriate behaviour, including wearing masks in crowded places, and complete the vaccination doses including booster shots as only 27-28% of India’s eligible population have taken the precaution dose. Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana and Tamil Nadu are the top five states in terms of the new covid cases even.

“Covid-19 is not over yet. I have directed all concerned to be alert and strengthen surveillance. We are prepared to manage any situation,” Mandaviya tweeted.

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