On Thursday, India revealed the first two cases of the highly contagious Omicron COVID-19 variant, months after the virus killed over 200,000 people throughout the country.
Two males in southern Karnataka state, aged 66 and 46, tested positive for the variant, according to top health ministry official Luv Agarwal.
“As per the protocols all their primary and secondary contacts have been traced and are being tested,” he told a press briefing.
India has yet to impose any blanket foreign travel bans, but the health ministry ordered all inbound travelers from “risk countries” to undergo obligatory post-arrival COVID-19 testing, as well as random testing of other international arrivals, on Monday.
Mumbai, the Indias biggest metropolis, implemented obligatory seven-day quarantines for all travellers travelling from at-risk nations on Wednesday.
Omicron, which was initially detected in southern Africa, poses a new challenge to global attempts to combat the pandemic, with certain countries immediately reimposing restrictions that many thought had been lifted.
It’s the most recent coronavirus strain to emerge since the outbreak began, including the presently prevalent Delta form, which was discovered in India in October 2020.
Between April and June, a deadly COVID-19 outbreak that overloaded hospitals and crematoriums killed over 200,000 people across the country.
It happened after the Kumbh Mela, one of the world’s largest religious events, which drew roughly 25 million Hindu pilgrims.
Experts blamed that gathering, as well as major state election rallies, for fueling the Delta surge.
With almost 34 million confirmed illnesses, India has the world’s second-highest number of cases.
It has over 470,000 COVID-19 fatalities, which ranks third behind the United States and Brazil.
However, underreporting is common, and some studies have suggested that India’s actual toll might be ten times higher.
According to government data, the country has delivered approximately 1.2 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses since then, although only around a third of the population has been properly vaccinated.