December 21, 2021 5:11:59 am
Five to seven “high priority” samples are being sent to the Gujarat Biotechnology Research Centre (GBRC) in Gandhinagar per day for genome sequencing ever since the guidelines in view of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 came into effect with nearly 10 per cent of the samples detected with Omicron so far.
The state’s tally of Omicron cases went up to 14 on Monday, with two Tanzanian nationals in Ahmedabad were detected with the variant on Sunday and another 27-year-old UK-returnee woman in Vadodara was detected with it on Monday. Eleven of them are active cases. The first case of Omicron was detected in Gujarat on December 4, which was a Zimababwean national of Gujarati origin.
The Gujarat government on Monday issued a notification maintaining status quo on night curfew timings till December 31, while a meeting of the high-power committee has been convened on Tuesday “after several months” as the state recorded 70 new Covid cases and a death in Valsad, the fourth deaths in the district this month.
According to GBRC director Dr Chaitanya Joshi, the laboratory routinely receives samples for surveillance purposes, while samples with travel history are taken on priority. “On an average, we are receiving five to seven samples (with travel history) per day since December 1. Once it is detected as Omicron by the PCR method, we inform the authority. The sample then goes for whole genome sequencing, report of which comes in four to five days. So far, we have seen that our PCR method was 100 per cent in concordance with genome sequencing,” said Dr Joshi.
Of the approximate 100-140 “priority” samples sequenced, 14 have been detected with the Omicron variant so far, pegging the Omicron detection rate among the priority samples at 10 per cent.
The Vadodara resident who returned to India from UK on December 13 was fully vaccinated with Covishield. Medical Officer for Health, Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC), Dr Devesh Patel, said, “The patient arrived from the UK via Mumbai. She was tested negative for Covid-19 at the UK and Mumbai airports. On the next day of her arrival (in Vadodara), she reported fever and got her test done again. She was then found Covid-19 positive. Her sample was sent on the same day for genome sequencing and came positive for the Omicron variant Monday.”
The patient, a Tandalja area resident, was in home isolation, Patel said adding, that she went to the UK on a short visit. “She has only two close contacts and they were tested on December 15 and were negative for Covid-19. With her being detected with Omicron variant, her close contacts will be tested again,” said Patel adding the patient, stable and asymptomatic, has been shifted to a private hospital.
The Tanzanian nationals — a husband-wife duo aged 48 and 47 years, who landed in Ahmedabad city on December 11 to undergo a medical procedure were found to be Covid positive. Deputy municipal commissioner Praveen Chaudhary said, “They got tested at Tanzania and Mumbai airport where they tested negative. They were staying at a hotel and went to Zydus Hospital for their procedure where prior to their operation they were tested positive for Covid. The sample was then sent to GBRC where they were detected with the Omicron variant on December 19.”
According to AMC officials, both are asymptomatic and were shifted to the AMC-run SVP Hospital.
In Valsad, where nine Covid deaths were reported since October, four of them in December, reported its latest casualty on Monday when a 60-year old fully vaccinated man in Malwan village of the district died of the virus.
He was admitted to a hospital in Navsari on December 16, according to the health officer of Valsad Civil Hospital, who added that the deceased had heart complications.
A 32-year-old Surat diamond trader who returned from Botswana tested positive for Covid on Monday along with three students of a private school in Surat. The Botswana-returnee has been isolated in a private hospital, while the three children are in home isolation, according to Surat health department deputy commissioner Dr Ashish Naik.
Gujarat home department issued a notification extending night curfew from 1 am to 5 am till December 31 in eight cities — Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, Jamnagar, Junagadh, Gandhingar, Rajkot and Bhavnagar. Other restrictions will continue.
Additional chief secretary of health Manoj Aggarwal said the state is monitoring the situation and a “balance has to be struck between continuing economic activities and dealing with the burden of the disease”. “We are testing 70,000-75,000 samples a day of which 60-70 are turning positive. We are cautious and it is only a matter of due diligence… Among the Omicron cases, we are doing extensive contact tracing and they are completely isolated,” said Aggarwal.
Dr Dileep Mavlankar, director at Indian Institute of Public Health in Gandhinagar (IIPHG) said that it was inevitable that Omicron “will come and it will spread”. “Omicron is appearing to be mild, based on the UK and South Africa (hospitalisation) data. If it is mild, there is not much to fear, but we have to wait and see if it becomes severe. Masking, social distancing, and ventilation are the key,” said Dr Mavlankar.
(Inputs from Aditi Raja in Vadodara, ENS Surat)
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