India on alert after over 100 Omicron infections

New Delhi, Dec 17 (EFE).- India Friday said the country had amassed more than 100 infections of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, signaling an alert for increased public safety measures amid tight protocols at international airports.

So far, there are 101 omicron cases in 11 states of the country, more than 30 of them in the western state of Maharashtra and about 20 in the Indian capital, health ministry official Lav Agrawal told reporters.

With this, at least 19 districts are at a “high risk” of increasing infections, he Agrawal warned.

VK Paul, a member of a government advisory body, said most of the patients had a travel history or had contacted people with travel history.

“But there have been some cases in which we have not been able to establish such a history. In that case, we continue the investigation,” Paul said.

The Indian authorities said it was critical to stay alert and continue with health safety protocols, given the rapid expansion of the new variant first detected in South Africa.

If India were to suffer an outbreak like the one in the United Kingdom, for example, the nation of 1.35 billion people could pass one million cases a day, Paul said.

“If we look at the scale of spread in the UK and if there is a similar outbreak in India, then given our population, there will be 1.4 million cases every day. France is reporting 65,000 cases. If an outbreak of a similar scale takes place in India, then given our population it will mean 1.3 million cases every day.”

In that case, it would be worse than the crisis India suffered in May when it was the global epicenter of the pandemic and added more than 400,000 cases and over 4,000 deaths daily.

The authorities also advised avoiding non-essential travel and mass.

The number of Omicron infections indicates the rapid speed with which the strain is spreading.

But the authorities said it was impossible to know the exact number of Omicron infections because it involves genome sequencing of every case.

“Genome sequencing of every sample is not possible. It is a surveillance and pandemic assessment and tracking tool, not a diagnostic tool as of now. We can assure sufficient systematic sampling is being undertaken,” Paul said.

Agrawal also insisted on the importance of continuing to advance the anti-coronavirus vaccination campaign, which is at the forefront of the fight against the new outbreak.

“There is no evidence to suggest that vaccines are not effective against the Omicron variant of the coronavirus,” Agarwal said.

The vaccination campaign has administered 1.35 billion vaccines since it began in January. More than 530 million people have already received two doses of the anti-covid vaccine.

India has a vaccine-eligible population of about 950 million people.

In the past 20 days, India has gone from two to 101 cases of the new variant.

Earlier, the Indian capital Friday reported 10 new Omicron infections amid an alarming hike in daily Covid-19 cases.

The national capital recorded nearly 90 fresh Covid-19 cases Friday, the highest in more than four months.

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