Amid growing concern over the Omicron variant, Health and Medical Education Minister K. Sudhakar on Monday said the sample of one of the two South Africa travellers who had tested COVID-19 positive recently in Bengaluru has features of a variant that is “different from the Delta variant.”
The Minister said he was in touch with the Union Health Ministry and the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) on this.
“One of the samples of a 63-year-old man is found to be Delta while the other is different. We have sought ICMR’s assistance in ascertaining the variant. The report is expected by Tuesday,” the Minister said. Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai also said the State is awaiting confirmation from ICMR.
Both the State Health and BBMP officials had said on Friday that two travellers were infected and both had tested positive for Delta variant. Officials had said the travellers, both South Africa nationals, had landed on November 11 and November 20 and genome sequencing showed they were infected with Delta.
However, on Monday, following the Minister’s statement, K.V. Trilok Chandra, BBMP Special Commissioner (Health), said the samples had been resent to the NCBS Genome Sequencing lab for reconfirmation. “There will be some clarity after we get the report on Tuesday,” he said.
State Health Commissioner D. Randeep said there was some confusion as the two travellers had tested positive on different dates. While the sample of the person who arrived on November 11 was sequenced and found to be infected with Delta, the other sample was sent to the NCBS only on November 27, he said.
The Minister said he would chair a meeting on Tuesday with members of the State’s COVID-19 Technical Advisory Committee and department officials. This will be followed by a video-conference with Deputy Commissioners and District Health Officers to discuss further course of action.
“We are tracking and closely watching all those who came from South Africa in the past 14 days. We have started tracing and testing their primary and secondary contacts,” he said.
The Minister said although the new variant is highly transmissible, it is not as dangerous as Delta. “I am told, people have nausea, vomiting and sometimes the pulse rate goes up, but loss of taste and smell is not there. There is less hospitalisation because the intensity is not severe,” he said.