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Omicron scare: Returnees from Zimbabwe, Nigeria test COVID positive in Maharashtra, Gujarat


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PUNE: A person, who recently returned from Nigeria to Pimpri Chinchwad township near Pune city, has tested COVID-19 positive along with two others who came in contact, and their samples have been sent for genome sequencing to confirm whether they were infected with the new Omicron variant detected in Africa, a health official said on Thursday.

The person returned to Pimpri Chinchwad on November 25, he said.

"Following the passenger's return from Nigeria, a test was conducted and the report came out positive for COVID-19 on Thursday. After contact tracing, two persons who had come in contact with that passenger also tested positive for the infection. All three samples have been sent for genome sequencing," the medical officer of Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) said.

With this, a total of three persons who returned from Nigeria and their three contacts have tested coronavirus positive within a week, he said.

"All of them have been sent for institutional quarantine, while their contacts are home quarantined," the official said.

Meanwhile, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has decided to conduct RT-PCR test of passengers, who returned to Pune after November 1 from the countries affected by the Omicron variant, a civic official said on Thursday.

This was decided during a meeting of state officials with the PMC administration that was held after two cases of Omicron variant found in Karnataka.

"During the meeting, we were asked to conduct RT-PCR test of passengers who returned from the countries affected by the Omicron variant. As per the new norms laid down by the state government, the passengers will be tested. But apart from this, those who had returned to Pune after November 1 will also have to undergo a test," the PMC official said.

The state government will share the list of passengers with the PMC on Friday, he said.

Earlier, one person, who had returned from Zambia, had tested COVID-19, after which the civic body had sent his samples for genome sequencing.

The 60-year-old patient is asymptomatic and is under home quarantine, he said, adding that his genome sequencing results are expected to be received by Monday.

Five more persons, who arrived in Mumbai from 'at risk countries' tested positive for COVID-19 infection on Thursday amid concerns over the new Omicron variant of the virus, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officials said.

The civic body's additional municipal commissioner Suresh Kakani said the number such travellers who have tested positive on arrival in the city and who are suspected to have been infected with the Omicron variant, increased to nine.

The BMC officials said that all the five travellers are males, who had arrived in the city from November 17 to December 2.

 

Three of them had arrived from London, one from Portugal and the fifth one from Germany.

According to civic officials they have carried out COVID-19 tests on a total of 485 travellers so far.

All the positive travellers have been admitted to the civic-run Seven Hills Hospital and their samples have been sent for genome sequencing, the BMC official said.

"Contract tracing of these travellers is going on," he said.

A traveller had tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday and was admitted to the hospital.

According to the Centre, the countries designated as "at-risk" are European countries, including the UK, and South Africa, Brazil, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel.

A night curfew has been imposed in the Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu as a precautionary measure to contain the spread of coronavirus in view of the concerns over the new Omicron variant of the virus, an official said on Thursday.

Starting Thursday, the night curfew will be force between 11 pm and 6 am till December 31, said the order issued by the Health and Family Welfare department of the Union Territory administration.

Moreover, the previous guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) issued by the Centre and the UT administration to contain the spread of coronavirus will remain in effect till December 31 or till further orders, it said.

Earlier, a night curfew was imposed in the union territory in April following a sudden rise in the new coronavirus infections.

However, the restrictions on the movement were lifted gradually after the situation came under control a few months back.

The order cited the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare's recent advisory to all the states and UTs "for rigorous screening and testing of all international arrivals" in view of the "emergence of highly mutant COVID-19 variant B.1.1529 cases in few countries of Africa".

It further said that the "administration shall take intensive surveillance measures in accordance with the advisory and guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare".

At present, there are zero active cases of COVID-19 in the entire union territory.

Of the total 10,655 persons infected so far, 10,651 recovered, while four died.

As many as 25 international passengers who arrived in Maharashtra since November 1 and three of their close contacts have tested positive for coronavirus, the state health department said on Thursday.

Their samples have been sent for genome sequencing to check if any of them has Omicron variant infection, it added.

After the new variant caused global concerns, international passengers are being screened at airports across the country.

As many as 861 international passengers were screened from the night of November 30 to the morning of December 2 and three of them tested positive for coronavirus infection.

"A total of 28 samples from both airport and field surveillance have been sent for genomic sequencing," the department said in its release.

Twelve samples have been sent to the National Institute of Virology, Pune, and 16 to Kasturba Hospital laboratory in Mumbai.

Seeking to assuage the panic over the new variant, the health department said genetic changes/mutation in viruses is a natural phenomenon.

People should inform the Public Health Department authorities if they have had international travel history in the last one month, it said.

It also appealed people to get fully vaccinated at the earliest.

A 72-year-old man has tested coronavirus positive in Jamnagar city of Gujarat following his return from Zimbabwe, an African nation and one of the "at risk" countries identified by the authorities, officials said on Thursday.

In order to ascertain if he is infected with the Omicron variant, the health authorities have sent his samples to Ahmedabad for genome sequencing, Jamnagar municipal commissioner Vijaykumar Kharadi said, adding that it will take around one week for the result to come.

"The man is a native of Jamnagar and has been living in Zimbabwe for the last many years. He arrived here on November 28 to meet his father-in-law. After he got a fever, his doctor advised him to get an RT-PCR test done. As mandated, the private laboratory informed us today that his report has come out positive for COVID-19," the civic chief said.

"He has been shifted to the isolation ward at the Guru Gobind Singh Government Hospital. We have started contact tracing as per protocols and his samples were sent to Ahmedabad for genome sequencing to know if he is infected with the new variant," Kharadi added.

Two people have tested positive for Omicron variant of coronavirus in Karnataka.

The new strain has been marked as Variant of concern by the World Health Organization (WHO).

(THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)