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No cases of Omicron variant in India, health minister Mandaviya tells Parliament

By Priyanka Verma 
Updated Date
No cases of Omicron variant in India, health minister Mandaviya tells Parliament

Amid concerns about the looming threat of the new Omicron or the B.1.1.529 variant of Covid-19, the Union government on Tuesday said that there were no reported cases of the variant in the country, so far. The statement was made by Union health and family welfare minister Mansukh Mandaviya in the Rajya Sabha during Parliament’s Winter Session on the day.

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“No case of Omicron Covid-19 variant has been reported in India so far,” the minister said while speaking during the Question Hour. “We are immediately checking suspicious cases and conducting genome sequencing. We have learnt a lot during the Covid crisis. Today, we have a lot of resources and laboratories. We can manage any situation,” the minister further quoted as saying.

The minister’s remarks came a day after senior government officials on Monday had also reportedly said that there were no cases of the variant, feared to be much more transmissible, detected in India. However, the officials also said that the results of the genomic analysis of international passengers who have arrived in India recently were being expedited, news agency PTI reported.

Meanwhile, the Centre’s ‘Har Ghar Dastak’ door-to-door vaccination campaign has been extended and will continue until December 31 with a focus on inoculation of first doses to all eligible populations in the country and also for completing the backlog in administering second doses, the Union health ministry said.

On Tuesday, the Union home ministry announced that the existing restrictions related to Covid-19 in the country would be extended till the end of the year (December 31). The ministry also stressed the need for strict compliance with the advisory issued by the Union health ministry in light of the emergence of the Omicron variant.

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Earlier in the day, Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan held a review meeting with states and Union territories during which they were advised to enhance testing of international passengers for Covid-19 strengthen the testing infrastructure and also trace their contacts.

Omicron does not (at this time) escape detection from existing tests, including the cheaper and faster antigen tests, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan told states and UTs today, urging them to scale up testing for early identification and management of cases. They have been told to augment health infrastructure and home isolation, as well as focus on containment, surveillance, and widening vaccine coverage.

“Union health secretary advised states to not to let their guards down, and keep a strict vigil on the international passengers coming to the country through various airports, ports and land border crossings,” the health ministry said in a statement.

The Omicron strain – designated a ‘variant of concern’ by the WHO – is believed to have 50+ mutations, including over 30 on the spike protein, which is the target of current vaccines and is what the virus uses to unlock access to our body’s cells. Researchers are still determining if this is more lethal, and if current vaccines protect against it.

Moderna set off fresh alarm bells today after it said existing vaccines may not be as effective against Omicron as against Delta. Pfizer is working on a variant of its vaccine. Neither jab is in India though, where Covishield and Covaxin are in use. The Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech have not yet commented on this issue.

Also Read :- Delhi sees over 20,000 COVID-19 cases in last 24 hrs, positivity rate nears 20%

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