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Omicron variant detected in NRI returnee to Gujarat from Zimbabwe, third in India

🔴 Two sets of samples of the Zimbabwe citizen had been sent for whole genome sequencing -- one to the National Institute of Virology in Pune and another to the Gujarat Biotechnology Research Centre in Gandhinagar.

Written by Sohini Ghosh | Ahmedabad |
Updated: December 4, 2021 10:21:24 pm
At the arrival gate of the domestic terminal of Ahmedabad airport. (Express photo by Nirmal Harindran)

The Omicron variant of the coronavirus was confirmed in the sample of a 71-year-old NRI who landed in Gujarat’s Jamnagar from Zimbabwe on November 28, the third such case in the country.

Two sets of samples of the Zimbabwe citizen, whose wife is a native of Jamnagar, had been sent for whole genome sequencing — one to the National Institute of Virology in Pune and another to the Gujarat Biotechnology Research Centre (GBRC) in Gandhinagar. He had tested positive for Covid-19 on December 2.

While the report from NIV Pune is expected on Monday, the GBRC has confirmed the presence of the Omicron variant in the sample, said Dr SS Chatterjee, nodal officer of Covid-19 for Jamnagar district. Jamnagar district collector Dr Sourabh Pardhi was informed about the presence of the variant by state-level authorities after the same was conveyed to the state health department by GBRC on Saturday.

Dr Chatterjee added that while the patient had shown mild symptoms of cough, cold and sore throat after admission on December 1 in the Covid-19 hospital set up by the Reliance Foundation at the Dental College of Jamnagar Medical College, he is stable at present. The patient had received only the first dose of the Sinovac vaccine. “It will be at least another three to four days before we test him for Covid-19 again and even if it is negative, the protocol requires that he remain isolated as a negative Covid-19 test does not mean the patient has stopped viral shedding,” said Dr Chatterjee.

After WHO on November 26 issued a statement that “several labs have indicated that for one widely used PCR test, one of the three target genes is not detected (called S gene dropout or S gene target failure) and this test can, therefore, be used as a marker for this variant, pending sequencing confirmation,” a Jamnagar health official said that while the administration is looking out for such markers, the 71-year old did not report a missing S-gene in his RT-PCR report.

Meanwhile, following the confirmation, an urgent meeting was held by Gujarat chief secretary Pankaj Kumar with additional chief secretary of health Manoj Aggarwal, health commissioner Jaiprakash Shivhare and other health officials.

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