India has reported another case of the Covid omicron variant, just a couple days after its first cases were detected, taking the tally to three as the country tightens its international travel rules in efforts to avoid an outbreak.
The state health department confirmed on Saturday that the infection was of the highly mutant after the 72-year-old man’s samples were sent for further checks following his positive RT-PCR report, according to news agency PTI.
The first two cases of the variant in India were confirmed on Thursday in the southern state of Karnataka. They involved two men, a South African national aged 66 who has since left India, and a 46-year-old Indian doctor with no recent travel history.
Indian government officials have said they are carrying out contact tracing of the confirmed cases and will test everyone to detect the new variant.
Dozens of countries have reported cases of the new variant since its discovery last month, triggering panic around the world. Many countries have ramped up testing and quarantine measures once again and tightened border restrictions.
India, which was going to restart scheduled commercial international flights from 15 December, has also tightened rules and has made quarantine mandatory for travellers from countries where omicron cases have been reported, classifying them as 12 “at-risk” and six “ultra-risk” countries targeted for additional measures.
It is now mandatory for all foreign travellers in India to get tested on arrival, a move that came as a surprise for many travellers on Thursday, leading to chaos and creating panic at local airports.
However, despite the tightened rules, concerns have also been raised in India about passengers evading quarantine and breaking restrictions, putting the country at the risk of a widespread outbreak.
Authorities have said that 13 passengers who recently entered India have “disappeared” in the city of Meerut in northern India after providing false addresses and contact information. Seven of them travelled to India from South Africa.
In the city of Chandigarh, a case was registered against a woman who broke mandatory quarantine.
The panic related to the omicron variant was triggered after early analyses from South Africa, where it was first detected last month, indicated that it could be considerably more transmissible than delta. The new variant reportedly exhibits an “unusual” high number of mutations compared to the original SARSCoV2 virus that first emerged in Wuhan, China.
India, which has suffered through a devastating second wave in April and May, saw its healthcare infrastructure crumble under the pressure of rising Covid cases due to delta variant.
Till now, only 33 per cent of India’s massive 1.4 billion population has been fully vaccinated.
The rate of infection, however, has gone down significantly in the last few months.
Daily cases in India have plateaued to about 10,000 in the last few weeks, after reporting a peak of over 400,000 cases in late April. India’s total tally of Covid infections during the pandemic is 34.62 million. With 415 deaths recorded on Saturday, the total toll rose to 470,530, though experts generally consider this to be an understatement.
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