India on Thursday reported its first cases of the omicron coronavirus variant, the country's Health Ministry said on Thursday.
Two cases of the new strain have been detected in the southern Karnataka state, ministry officials told reporters in the capital New Delhi.
"Two cases of omicron have been found positive ... one is a 66-year-old male and the second is a 46-year-old male. All primary contacts and secondary contacts of both cases have been traced and are being tested," said Lav Agarwal, a senior ministry official.
He said the Indian government had advised states to focus on international travelers, surveillance, enhanced testing, ensuring the augmentation of health infrastructure and increasing awareness.
Balram Bhargava, the director-general of the Indian Council of Medical Research, said the two cases were detected through genome sequencing efforts of 37 laboratories established by the Ministry of Health under the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG).
"We need not panic, but awareness is absolutely essential. COVID-appropriate behavior is required," he said.
At the press conference, Dr. V K Paul, a member of the National Institute for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog -- the government's main policy think-tank, told reporters that 84% of adults in the country have been administered the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
He added that 49% of the population was now fully vaccinated with two doses, which he said was a "significant milestone."
At least 23 countries from five of six World Health Organization (WHO) regions have now reported cases of the new omicron variant, with this number expected to grow, the WHO chief said on Wednesday.
Keshava Reddy Sudhakar, Karnataka's health minister said the 66-year-old patient was a South African national, who has since gone back to that country.
"We have tacked and traced his primary and secondary contacts, 24 and 240 people, respectively. Luckily none of them have been found positive," said Sudhakar.
He added that the second case is a practicing medical doctor in a government hospital. "Out of his primary and secondary contacts, there have been five people who have been found positive," he said, adding that the doctor had no travel history.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.