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What is the status of Omicron variant?

Published: 2nd Dec 2021 8:18 pm

Hyderabad: As on Thursday, two persons from Karnataka have tested positive for Omicron variant of Covid-19. A 35-year-old woman from Rangareddy district, who flew down to Hyderabad from the UK, also has tested Covid positive and officials are waiting for results of genome sequencing to ascertain the cause of Covid-19 was Delta or Omicron.

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What happens to passengers coming from at-risk countries at international airports in India?

All the international passengers arriving at Shamshabad international airport are screened and all of them undergo RTPCR tests within the airport premises and wait for the results. Passengers who test positive are shifted for treatment at Telangana Institute of Medical Sciences (TIMS) Gachibowli while those who test negative are advised home 14-day home quarantine. On the 8th day of their home quarantine, district surveillance teams will conduct RTPCR tests and if they test negative, then such individuals will have to remain in home quarantine for one more week.

What are the new rules on masks?

The health department in Telangana has urged enforcement officials including the police department to start imposing fines of Rs. 1000 on individuals who do not wear masks in public spaces. During the peak second wave in April, the State government had made it mandatory for all to wear masks and decided to impose a penalty of Rs.1,000 on those who do not wear masks. The rule of mandatory masks will be re-implemented.

On vaccination certificates

Individuals who have already received two doses of Covid vaccines must carry a physical copy of the vaccine certificate on their person. The surveillance teams will conduct random inspections at public spaces to ensure people are motivated to get vaccinated. The move is also aimed at spreading awareness.

How long does it take to sequence the SARS-CoV-2 genome ?

According to health officials in Hyderabad, it takes at least 2 to 3 days for a genetic laboratory to sequence the complete genome of SARS-CoV-2 and to ascertain whether it is a Delta or Omicron variant. In Hyderabad, there are three laboratories including Gandhi Hospital, CCMB and CDFD to conduct the genome sequencing of Omicron.

Which are the at-risk countries from where international arrivals are tested at airports?

All the European countries including UK and South Africa, Brazil, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong, Israel.

What is the situation of Covid worldwide?

The MOHFW, New Delhi has noted that there is a surge in cases globally with Europe contributing to 70 per cent of the total new Covid cases in the last one week. In the week ending 28 Nov, around 2.75 lakh new cases and over 29,000 deaths were reported in Europe.

How many Omicron cases were reported in the world?

Based on the Omicron tracking website (https://newsnodes.com/nu_tracker), a total of 375 Omicron cases have been reported in over 30 countries.

What does MOHFW say about Omicron?

MOHFW says that 45-52 mutations have been noted in Omicron, out of which 26-32 are related to spike protein. Early data suggest an increased growth rate, but not yet known if Omicron is more transmissible compared to other Variants of Concern, including Delta.

Also read: Omicron variant can be detected by RT-PCR, RAT: ICMR chief

How fast can it spread?

New data from South Africa shows the Omicron wave is much steeper than the Delta wave that hit South Africa. There is a 5 times increase in hospitalisations in Gauteng province of South Africa in just 2 weeks. Cases are up across most of South Africa. The Omicron variant is up swinging much faster in both new daily cases and positivity, than all previous waves in South Africa.

Also read: WHO warns risk related to Omicron as ‘very high’

How protected are those who have taken the vaccines?

Reports have indicated that many persons who tested positive for Omicron in South Africa and other countries were fully vaccinated and some even had received booster doses. Scientists are worried that the new variant might bypass the current vaccines against Covid-19. The B.1.1.529 variant has 50 mutations overall, including more than 30 on the spike protein alone which is the target of most current Covid vaccines. However, a clearer picture will emerge in the coming days, as researchers don’t yet know the clear implications of the new variant on vaccines and boosters.

Why should one be worried about the new variant of coronavirus?

According to MOHFW, the new variant is reported to have a significantly high number of mutations, and thus has serious public health implications.

How different it is from the original virus?

The B1.1.529 has more than 2 times the number of bad spike mutations than the Delta variant. The new variant has an extremely high 32 worrisome mutations in the spike protein, which is a real concern than the Delta variant.

What impact will it have on travel? How many countries have imposed restrictions on air travel?

Countries like United Kingdom has imposed travel restrictions on African countries over concerns that vaccines may be less effective against the variant. Germany, Italy, Israel, Japan, Kenya and Singapore have also restricted travel. The European Union has called its member states to halt travel to and from nations where the new variant has been reported.

What is India doing about the new virus?

Concerned with the development of new variants, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) has directed Indian States to strengthen surveillance activities across all airports. States have started tracking travellers flying-in from countries where the infections due to the new variant have been reported.

Also read: WHO Regional Director says Omicron in India was not unexpected

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