Omicron tally rises to 32, symptoms mild: Centre

Officials flag need for continued COVID appropriate behaviour

With the detection of seven new cases of the Omicron variant of novel coronavirus in Maharahstra, the total number of cases in the country touched 32 on Friday.

Maharashtra now has 17 cases, followed by nine in Rajasthan, three in Gujarat, two in Karnataka, and one in Delhi.

In Maharashtra, three new cases, including a three-and-half-year-old child, were reported from Mumbai, and four from Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation.

Addressing a press conference on COVID-19 management, Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary, Union Health Ministry, said, “Mainly mild symptoms have been seen in the cases of Omicron variant detected so far.”

“Clinically, Omicron so far hasn’t posed burden to the healthcare system but we have to be vigilant,” cautioned Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Director-General Balram Bhargava. He added that vaccination and COVID appropriate behaviour continue to be the best protection against the virus.

Dr. Bhargava said the ICMR “will test efficacy of the vaccines against Omicron while following protocol”.

India has now given two doses of the COVID vaccination to over 50% of its adult population, he added.

According to data released by the Ministry, India is now reporting a daily COVID case record of below 10,000 for 14 consecutive days with 52.8% of the total cases in the last week from one State — Kerala. The Ministry has also said that eight districts in Mizoram, Sikkim and Kerala continue to report more than 10 % weekly positivity and are districts of concern.

“But that should not allow us to be complacent and remove the mask and stop adhering to the COVID appropriate behaviour. We continue to be in a critical zone till the virus is around and to be cautious is only prudent,” said Dr. V.K. Paul, Member-Health, NITI Aayog.

“These numbers are no indication to lower our guards. Mask usage is declining in India. We have to remember that both vaccines and masks are important. As far as protection capability is concerned, we are now operating at a risky and unacceptable level. Usage was optimum during the second surge but was low just before the second wave surge. We are seeing a dip in usage now according to a survey and this low level of usage is risky and unacceptable. We should learn from the global situation. The World Health Organsation (WHO) is warning against the decline in mask usage as the global scene of Omicron is disturbing,” said Dr. Paul.

Stating that the WHO has highlighted that public health measures should be followed by all on a continual basis, besides vaccination, Mr. Agarwal said laxity in public health measures could be one of the reasons behind the surge in Europe.

“In India surveillance, effective screening, monitoring of international travellers and health infrastructure upgradation is being done. States have been notified to increase their surveillance and actively test passengers arriving from other countries.” he said.

“Across the world 78,054 probable cases have also been detected and their genome sequencing is underway. Currently the UK, Denmark, and South Africa are the top three countries with highest Omicron cases,” the official said.

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