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Explained: What government said on Omicron variant of Covid-19 today

Nine cases of the 25 Omicron cases detected in India did not have foreign travel history while 14 are fully vaccinated — Covishield (8); Pfizer (5); and Sinovac (1) — indicating breakthrough infections caused by the new Covid-19 variant.

Written by Kaunain Sheriff M , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
December 10, 2021 7:54:33 pm
Hospital staff continue with their routine work at the isolation ward prepared for patients detected with Omicron variant at Civil hospital, Asarwa. (Express photo by Nirmal Harindran)

All the 25 Omicron variant cases in India have mild symptoms, said the government on Friday. It also said that nine cases did not have foreign travel history while 14 are fully vaccinated — Covishield (8); Pfizer (5); and Sinovac (1) — indicating breakthrough infections caused by the new Covid-19 variant.

Is India testing Covaxin and Covishield against Omicron?

ICMR chief Dr Balram Bhargava said that India will soon begin testing of Covaxin and Covishield against Omicron. “We have at this moment, in India, seen 25 cases of Omicron. NIV Pune has got samples from these individuals. We are trying to grow the virus, inoculate it in the culture medium, so that it grows. Once we grow the virus, we will be able to test in the laboratory and then we will test the efficacy of both Covaxin and Covishield. This work has started and we are trying multiple cultures to grow the virus,” Bhargava said.

What is the strategy for protection against Omicron?

India’s Covid-19 task force head Dr V K Paul again highlighted that India needs to be vigilant and that the mask is a universal and social vaccine, which is effective against any variant.

Paul also flagged that India, which is currently reporting a decline in Covid-19 cases, however, has seen the emergence of 70 clusters of Covid-19 cases. “We should keep in mind that the country is witnessing a cluster of cases. Approximately we have seen 70 such clusters. We are investigating them and found that it is still caused due to the Delta variant. This is why both doses of vaccination and masks are very important. There is no need to panic but we need to be vigilant,” Paul said.

Bhargava also emphasised that clinically Omicron is yet not posing a burden on the healthcare system. “However, the vigil has to be maintained. Regular meetings are being organised to keep a watch on the global scenarios. District-level restrictions are to be implemented where the test positivity is more than 5 per cent. Also, scientific evidence for diagnosis and treatment are being reviewed. The treatment remains unchanged at the moment,” Bhargava said.

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What did the health ministry say about India’s policy to administer booster doses?

Again, it highlighted that two expert bodies are still examining the issue of administering booster doses. Paul also said that there is no stand on booster dose by the WHO. “They have absolute clarity on the administration of the booster. It is under consideration. It has clearly and emphatically highlighted the need to complete primary vaccination, as the most important priority. Our thinking and the overall picture are also aligned with the same approach to complete the task of vaccinating adults with two doses,” Paul said.

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