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Two COVID-infected individuals The Health Ministry announced on Thursday that 19 cases of the Omicron variety had been discovered in India, marking the first confirmation of the coronavirus strain within the country's borders, which has sparked worldwide concern.
Both incidents were recorded in Karnataka, with the patients being two foreigners aged 66 and 46, according to the Health Ministry's Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal, who added that their identities will not be revealed for the time being to safeguard their privacy.
One of them is a 66-year-old man, who has received both vaccine doses, travelled from South Africa on November 20 with a negative Covid report. He tested positive on arrival and was asymptomatic, following which he was told to self-isolate. A week later (with a negative Covid report from a private lab) he flew to Dubai. Samples from 24 primary and 240 secondary contacts have returned negative test results.
The second patient is a health worker from Bengaluru who developed symptoms (fever and body ache) on November 21. He tested positive the following day and was admitted to hospital; his sample was sent for genome sequencing on the same day. However, three days later he was discharged. His vaccination status is unclear at this time.
"There's no need to be concerned about the Omicron finding, but it is critical to be aware. Avoid gatherings, and behave in a Coivd-appropriate manner "Mr. Agarwal explained.
India had planned to resume scheduled commercial overseas flights on December 15, but cancelled the plan on Wednesday, saying a resumption date will be announced later.
A week after the health ministry warned that a recent drop in testing could jeopardise India's efforts to limit the epidemic, the government has asked states to increase testing.
Coronavirus incidences have dropped significantly in India, where the Delta variety is the prevalent strain, after a record spike in infections and deaths in April and May.
On Thursday, the country recorded 9,765 additional cases, bringing the total number of cases to 34.61 million. The United States is the only country that has recorded more.
Early indications have suggested the heavily-mutated Omicron may be markedly more contagious than previous variants, however, there has been no evidence of the strain any deadlier.
"There will be no drastic curbs any time soon. The situation is well under control," Dr VK Paul, chief of the centre's COVID-19 task force, said.