Omicron spread is higher in unventilated rooms: TN govt

Omicron spread is significantly higher in closed, unventilated rooms: TN govt

Officials said the spread was 'quite high' in closed spaces

Medical workers stand outside a pathological lab equipped to screen Covid-19 coronavirus patients arriving from listed high risk destinations at a government hospital in Chennai. Credit: AFP Photo

The spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 among close contacts and in closed unventilated rooms is “significantly and extremely high”, the Tamil Nadu government said on Saturday, quoting preliminary data from contact tracing of those infected with the Omicron variant. 

In yet another indication that Omicron could spread much faster than the previous variants, as many as 54 persons, including doctors, nurses, and health workers, tested positive after they came in contact with a diabetic patient before he was about to undergo surgery at the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital (RGGH) here. 

As many as 3,038 direct and indirect contacts of the diabetic patient, whose genomic sequencing returned positive for Omicron variant, have so far been tested of which 54 samples have turned positive. Besdies, samples of 39 of the 54 persons have S-gene dropout, which is considered a proxy indicator for the Omicron variant. All samples have been sent to the National Institute of Virology, Pune for genomic sequencing. 

Also read: Bommai to decide on night curfew, other curbs in key Omicron meeting on December 26

The development came as Principal Secretary (Health) J Radhakrishnan wrote to district collectors “not to let down their guard” as increased transmissibility of the variant might lead to an increase in caseload, though validation of clinical progress would take some more time. 

“Preliminary data in contact tracing has clearly shown that the spread among close contacts and in closed unventilated rooms is significantly and extremely high in the case of the OMICRON variant,” Radhakrishnan wrote in the letter on Saturday. 

Officials said the spread was “quite high” in closed spaces as contact tracing of another Omicron-infected person showed that he had transmitted the virus to people with whom he interacted for just a few minutes. The state has so far reported 34 Omicron cases even as the results of genomic sequencing of over 80 samples, including the 54 mentioned above, are awaited. 

Also read: Lockdown in Maharashtra only if daily oxygen demand touches 800 MT: Minister

As it battles a high number of Omicron cases, the Health Department has now asked all international passengers to Tamil Nadu even from “non-risk countries” to quarantine themselves at their home for seven days and step out only after the RT-PCR test taken on the eighth day returns negative.

In the letter, Radhakrishnan conveyed his deep concern over the “lack of follow up of COVID appropriate behaviour” in public places and gatherings by most people.

“Unless there is a visible change of behaviour among all the people and strict enforcement of masks, social distancing, hand washing, ensuring ventilation in closed places along with increasing the pace of vaccinations, it will be difficult and impossible to contain the spread,” he said. 

He also drew the attention of the district collectors to the lack of follow up and enforcement of Covid appropriate behaviour in hospitals and medical colleges.

“It is more concerning because in case of OMICRON Symptoms are very mild and a person may not even know that he is sick and would be unknowingly spreading it to many if the persons with infection in such premises and others who come in contact with the person are not wearing a mask and taking other indicated precautions,” he said.

Radhakrishnan also said all tested persons should be asked to be in self-isolation till the results come to avoid further spread and told the district administrations to keep reviewing hospital preparedness.

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