Friday, January 28, 2022

India Confirms Omicron Variant Cases, Says Get Vaccinated Now

NEW DELHI (AP) – India on Thursday confirmed its first cases of omicron coronavirus in two people who have traveled abroad, and a leading medical expert has urged people to get vaccinated.

The health ministry said the cases involved two men from the southern state of Karnataka who came from overseas. It did not say in which country or if they were vaccinated.

Health spokesman Love Agarwal said all contacts between the two men were traced and tested for the virus.

India has already classified several countries as “at risk” due to the omicron option, and travelers from these countries are tested upon arrival in India. In addition, India randomly tests 2% of all other international travelers.

Genome sequencing is also done to detect a variant. India has checked nearly 8,000 passengers since Wednesday.

Balram Bhargava, head of the Indian Medical Research Council, India’s leading medical research organization, has urged people not to panic and get vaccinated.

“Increased consumption of the vaccine is a need for an hour. Don’t delay full vaccinations, ”he said.

Dr. Chandrakant Lakharia, a health policy expert, said the focus should be on finding the unvaccinated and ensuring that they are vaccinated. “Some indecision may disappear after the news about the new version. But this should not be taken for granted, ”he said.

Several Indian states have imposed strict restrictions on overseas entry as a precautionary measure, including mandatory COVID-19 tests for those arriving from South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong.

Much remains unknown about the new variant, including whether it is more contagious as suspected by some health authorities, whether it causes more serious illness in people, and whether it might interfere with the administration of the vaccine.

According to Our World In Data, more than 56% of Indians have received at least one dose of the vaccine – 32% are fully vaccinated, and 24% have received a single dose.

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Associated Press reporters Krutika Pathi and Sheikh Saalik contributed to this report.

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The Associated Press’s Department of Health and Science receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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