Omicron community spread seen early in Dec in Delhi

Omicron community transmission detected early in December in Delhi

A team of Delhi researchers detected 82 Omicron samples of which 50 had no travel links

Delhi reported its first and India’s fifth Omicron case on Dec 5 from a traveler returning from Tanzania. Credit: IANS Photo

Much before the official admission, the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 was transmitting through the community in Delhi causing breakthrough infections besides sending a few to the hospitals, scientists reported on Friday

Examining 264 genome sequences of Covid positive patients collected between Nov 25 and Dec 23, a team of Delhi researchers detected 82 Omicron samples of which 50 had no travel links whereas 19 were international travelers and 13 were their contacts. The remaining 182 are Delta cases.

“The majority of Omicron patients (61 per cent) had no documented international travel history or contact. Hence they undoubtedly acquired the infection locally, thus signifying the community spread and imposing further challenges in epidemic control,” the team from the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences reported.

The study is yet to be peer-reviewed, but was posted in an online archive on Friday.

Delhi reported its first and India’s fifth Omicron case on Dec 5 from a traveler returning from Tanzania.

Also read: Delhi records 24,383 Covid-19 cases, 34 deaths

Among a total of 82 Omicron cases, 46.3 per cent (38 persons) belonged to 14 families. Out of these 14 family clusters, only four families (five individuals) had documented travel history from different countries.

Out of the remaining 10 families with no international travel history, three families contracted Omicron following contact with a non-family member with international travel history. Rest of the 20 individuals from 7 families contracted Omicron infection possible due to community transmission.

Nearly 61 per cent of the 82 Omicron cases were asymptomatic individuals whereas 3.6 per cent (three persons having diabetes and hypertension) required hospital stay.

Nearly 88 per cent (72 Omicron positive patients) were fully vaccinated, signifying the variant’s ability to cause breakthrough infections.

Read | 'Will discharge non-Covid patients when they’re ready'

“We observed a definite shift from Delta predominance7 to Omicron along with its community spread. Similar findings were observed from various parts of the world including South Africa and Denmark where the new variant simultaneously emerged at the end of November 2021,” the team reported.

The findings came on a day when Delhi reported more than 24,000 new Covid cases with a positivity rate of nearly 31 per cent - in other words every third individual, if tested, will turn out to be Covid positive.

"There is no need to panic. Cases are rising fast and there is no two ways about it. The Omicron variant is quite transmissible and infectious. But there is no reason to worry as hospitalisation and death rates are quite low," Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said earlier in the day.

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