Variant of Global Concern; Omicron in India on the Rise

COVID-19 variant Omicron has emerged as a variant of global concern and in India cases rose to 21 after this new variant was found in 17 more people on Sunday. In Britain new variant rose more than 50 per cent in a single day. According to the UK Health Security Agency, a further 86 cases of the Omicron variant have been reported in Britain, taking the total to 246. This compares with a total of 160 on Saturday, an increase 50 per cent. India is also on high alert. 

Omicron, first detected in South Africa on November 25, has been described as a "variant of concern" by the WHO. International airports across India are intensively screening and testing all passengers from 'at-risk' countries. In line with central guidelines, all passengers from such countries have to take RT-PCR tests on arrival. The test result has to be negative in order to leave the airport.The list of countries deemed "at-risk" for now includes the United Kingdom, all 44 countries in Europe, South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Israel.Researchers are still checking if Omicron is more lethal and if current vaccines offer protection.

In India, among the new cases, nine were detected in Jaipur, seven in Pune and one in Delhi. The person who came to Delhi from Tanzania, who tested positive for Omicron variant, was fully vaccinated. So far, Omicron variant cases have been reported in Karnataka, Gujarat, Delhi and Rajasthan, Indian Health Ministry said. The first two cases of Omicron in India were reported from Karnataka last week. The other two cases were detected from Gujarat and Maharashtra. With seven new cases, the Omicron cases in Maharashtra have risen to 8.

According to the Ministry, India registered 8,306 new Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours, 6.6 per cent lower than Saturday. It brings the total caseload to 3,46,41,561.Top five states which have registered maximum cases are Kerala with 4,450 cases, followed by Tamil Nadu with 724 cases, Maharashtra with 707 cases, West Bengal with 620 cases and Karnataka with 456 cases. 83.76 per cent of the new cases are reported from these five states, with Kerala alone responsible for 53.58 per cent of the new cases.India's recovery rate now stands at 98.35 per cent.

Meanwhile, Russian President Putin hopes for quick approval of Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine by WHO. According to media reports, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday voiced hope for a quick approval of the country's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine by the World Health Organisation, saying the move is essential for expanding its global supplies.