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Omicron cases only travel-related, no clinically meaningful cluster suggesting domestic transmission so far: Expert

🔴In all, the country has reported 21 Omicron cases — nine from Rajasthan, eight from Maharashtra, two from Karnataka and one each from Gujarat and Delhi.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune |
Updated: December 7, 2021 7:29:07 am
Crowds and long queues were seen at the Indira Gandhi International Airport earlier this week, when the new testing guidelines were introduced for passengers from ‘at risk’ countries, in the wake of concerns over the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. (Express photo)

Cases of Omicron variant detected across the country so far have been travel-related, sporadic ones and there is no clinically meaningful cluster to suggest domestic transmission yet, Dr Shashank Joshi, expert member of the Maharashtra Covid-19 task force, has said.

Maharashtra has reported 10 cases so far, seven from Pune and three from Mumbai. In all, the country has reported 21 Omicron cases — nine from Rajasthan, eight from Maharashtra, two from Karnataka and one each from Gujarat and Delhi.

Dr Joshi said that “mild symptoms reported by African doctors needed long-term validation for at least three to six months” to substantiate the findings.

State surveillance officer Dr Pradeep Awate also said the sample size was too small to draw any inference. “We need to wait at least a couple of weeks before understanding the dynamics — be it that of transmission, severity of symptoms or immune escape,” he added.

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Dr Joshi said there has been a variance in the clinical symptoms of the Omicron strain vis a vis the ancestral and Delta ones. “For instance, the patients have not reported lack of smell or taste. However, still we do not know the extent of moderate disease and hence will have to wait for at least three months before making a clinically meaningful conclusion,” he added.

Several experts, including Dr Joshi, have urged the citizens not to engage in “wild speculations” and allow correct evidence to emerge. “The virus, if at all, is numerical in the country. These are travel-related, sporadic cases and import-related contacts. There is no need to panic,” Dr Joshi said. “So far, clinical outcomes as per reports from South Africa show that it is mild and there is no major cause of concern,” he added.

“Data on transmissibility has also not proven beyond reasonable doubt that the variant spreads faster than Delta, Dr Joshi said. “These are isolated anecdotal cases. We need to identify micro clusters,” the expert said, adding that the approach has been tight and includes strict screening of inbound travelers, ensuring adherence to Covid protocols, and vaccination.

In Pune, the first person to have been detected with the Omicron variant is a 47-year-old man who had returned from Finland. Dr Sanjeev Wavare, assistant medical officer, Pune Municipal Corporation, said that all 35 contacts of the patient have tested negative. As per guidelines, the patient has been shifted to Naidu hospital and will be kept under observation, he added.

In Pimpri-Chinchwad, medical officer Dr Laxman Gophane said that barring the 44-year-old woman who has a cough, none of the five other patients had symptoms. They are all in institutional quarantine and will be tested for Covid on the eighth day. Ten more samples have been sent for genome sequencing and reports are awaited, he said.

When contacted, Dr Dhananjay Kelkar, medical director of Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital, said that the hospital had the lowest number of cases (16) of Covid infection in a long time on Monday. “There is a need, however, to ensure Covid-appropriate behaviour,” he added.

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