At a time when reports about the new ‘Omicron’ strain of Covid have set off alarm bells, Karnataka Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar has said that a passenger back from South Africa had tested positive for a strain “different than Delta”.
The test samples, he said, have been sent for genome sequencing for further examination, he said.
This comes after two South African nationals who arrived in Bengaluru tested positive for Covid earlier this month. One of them has been found to be infected by the Delta strain.
Dr Sudhakar has now called a meeting with health officials while Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai has urged the centre to stop passengers from South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong from entering the country.
The minister said he was in touch with the Union Health Ministry and officials of the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR).
“There is a Delta variant for the past nine months only, but you are saying that one of the samples is Omicron. I cannot say about it officially. I am in touch with the ICMR and central government officials,” Dr Sudhakar said, according to a report by news agency PTI.
He added that he has sought a detailed report on the Omicron strain. “We will get clear information on December 1 about how the Omicron behaves after the genomic sequencing. Accordingly we will initiate all measures,” he said.
The minister, who is also a medical professional, said he had spoken to his former classmates working in South Africa about the new variant.
“The satisfying thing I came across after talking to my classmates in South Africa is that this (Omicron variant) spreads rapidly, but it is not as dangerous as Delta. People feel nausea and vomiting and sometimes the pulse rate goes up, but loss of taste and smell is not there. There is less hospitalisation because it’s intensity is not severe,” he said.
To a query on the possibility of a lockdown, Dr Sudhakar said there was no such proposal before the government yet.