Pune/Pimpri, 30th November 2021: Currently, there are six passengers who arrived from South Africa or other high-risk countries in the state who are tested positive.
Out of those who have come from South Africa and other countries, one each has been found in Mumbai Corporation, Kalyan-Dombivali Corporation, Meera-Bhayandar Corporation and Pune, in addition to two passengers arrived from Nigeria, who have been found in Pimpri-Chinchwad corporation area.
All their samples have been sent for genome sequencing and their contact tracing exercise is underway. All these passengers, although tested Covid-19 positive, are either asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic. Genetic changes/mutation in viruses is a natural phenomenon and people should not panic, the state government stated in a press release.
The Public Health Department has appealed to the citizens that they should follow Covid-appropriate behaviour, inform the Public Health Department authorities if they have had an international travel history in the last month and those who have not taken Covid-19 vaccine or have had only one dose should complete their vaccination at the earliest.
On 26th November 2021, the World Health Organisation (WHO) named the Covid-19 virus variant detected in South Africa and some other countries Omicron. WHO has also classified the Omicron variant as ‘Variant of Concern’ Experts have expressed possibilities that owing to the genetic modification in the virus, it may possess some specific characteristics. While the transmissibility of infection seems to have increased because of this new variant, there is still not enough clarity on whether or not it will cause severe disease and whether it will evade immunity.
More information is expected in the next two weeks’ time or so. Against this background, surveillance of international passengers has been started as per the guidelines given by the Government of India. Passengers arriving from Europe and other 11 countries where the Omicron variant has been detected will be tested with RT-PCR and positive samples will be sent for whole genome sequencing. Additionally, those who are found RT-PCR negative will also be quarantined for seven days before testing again. If they are found positive this time around, their samples too will be sent for genomic sequencing.
As per the Government of India guidelines, RT-PCR test will be done for random 5% of the passengers arriving from countries other than the listed ones, and positive samples among them will be sent for genomic sequencing.