Seven new cases of the Omicron variant of coronavirus infection were reported from Maharashtra on Friday, taking the total number of cases in the state to 17. Three of the cases were reported from Mumbai and four from Pimpri-Chinchwad.
Four of the seven patients with Omicron are fully vaccinated, said state Health Department officials. Of the remaining three patients, one has received a single vaccine dose, one is not vaccinated and the third patient is three-and-a-half years old, hence not eligible for the vaccine yet. Four patients are asymptomatic while three have mild symptoms.
Currently, Maharashtra has 6,534 active cases of Covid-19.
The four newly-detected patients from Pimpri-Chinchwad are contacts of the 44-year-old Nigerian woman of Indian origin who had earlier tested positive for Omicron. The city has 10 confirmed cases of Omicron so far, all of them family members of the woman who had come to visit her brother in Pimpri.
She, her two daughters, her brother and his two children had earlier tested positive for Omicron and were in institutional quarantine.
Dr Balasaheb Hodgar, in-charge of the Covid section at Pimpri’s Jijamata Hospital, said four other members of the same family, including three adults and one child, have tested positive for Omicron. They are all asymptomatic, said Dr Hodgar.
Of the six Omicron patients admitted earlier, four will be discharged on Saturday as they have tested negative after 10 days of hospitalisation.
“… All the Omicron cases detected so far are from one family,” said Dr Laxman Gofane, chief of PCMC’s medical department.
Of the newly detected Omicron patients in Mumbai, a 25-year-old man returned to the city on December 1. The second, a 37-year-old male, landed in Mumbai from South Africa on December 4. Both are fully vaccinated and have mild symptoms. They are currently admitted at Seven Hills Hospital.
The diagnosis of the third patient, a man from the densely populated Dharavi, the largest slum in Asia, became a cause of concern on Friday. However, health officers from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said that the patient was isolated within minutes of reaching Dharavi, limiting his exposure to close contacts.
The patient landed in Mumbai from Tanzania to deliver an address in Dharavi. He was one of the 2% international fliers from ‘non-risk’ countries who underwent an RT-PCR test on arrival at the Mumbai airport. After providing the sample, he was allowed to go to Dharavi.
When the airport found that he was Covid-19 positive, a BMC surveillance officer immediately rushed to Dharavi and took the asymptomatic patient to an isolation ward at Seven Hills Hospital.
“Firstly, he is not a resident of Dharavi, so his exposure was limited to a few people who have already tested negative for Covid-19. Secondly, even before he could mingle with people, we isolated him,” Dr Virendra Mohite, medical officer of G-North ward, told The Indian Express.
Meanwhile, to track Omicron cases, field surveillance of all international passengers who have arrived in Maharashtra since November 1 is underway. Through airport and field surveillance, 89 samples have been sent for genomic sequencing and results of 47 are awaited so far.
According to the state Health Department, RT-PCR tests have been conducted on 10,927 international passengers who have arrived at Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur airports from December 1 till Friday morning.
With the possibility of Omicron carriers from non-risk countries, members of the National Covid Task Force have reasoned that it is impossible to screen all international fliers and emphasised full vaccination.
Dr Subhas Salunke, member of the National Covid Task Force, stressed on conducting more genome sequencing and simultaneously keeping a close eye on symptoms of patients to understand the epidemiological characteristics of Omicron. He also suggested allowing only fully vaccinated international fliers to travel and cutting the RT-PCR test time span before travelling to 48 hours from the current 72 hours.
“The variant has infiltrated the world, the enemy has come to our doors. So now, we have to understand the virus to fight against it. More research needs to be done to find out if the variant is virulent, which can lead to health complications among patients,” said Dr Salunke.