Covid-19: Omicron fears dampen Christmas, New Year celebrations in India

Over 270 cases of the new strain have been identified in the country as the festive season approaches


A Staff Reporter

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Published: Thu 23 Dec 2021, 4:35 PM

Last updated: Thu 23 Dec 2021, 4:36 PM

Christmas and New Year celebrations across India are likely to be subdued this year with fears of the threat posed by the Omicron variant of Covid-19. The Indian government has directed states to take necessary measures to prevent a further outbreak and many have started taking action.

The number of Omicron cases in India shot up to 271 on Thursday across 16 states and union territories. Maharashtra tops the list with 65, followed by Delhi (64), Tamil Nadu (34), Kerala (29), Telangana (24), Rajasthan (21) and Karnataka (19).

The Indian health ministry has alerted states that Omicron is at least three times more transmissible than the Delta variant. Rajesh Bhushan, the health secretary, urged state governments to set up special 'war rooms' to tackle the looming crisis.


Overall, India's active Covid-19 cases add up to a little over 78,000; the recovery rate is 98.4 per cent, the highest since March 2020. About 6,300 new Covid-19 cases were reported on Wednesday; additionally, 318 deaths were reported in the previous 24 hours. The active caseload is at 78,190, the lowest in 575 days.

Worried about the increasing instances of Omicron cases, Mumbai's civic body has said that special clearances would be needed for any gathering of more than 200 people. On Wednesday, Mumbai reported 490 new coronavirus positive cases, up from 160 the previous day. However, there were no fatalities. More than 45,000 tests were conducted during the day.

The Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) has said no events or gatherings would be allowed in the metropolis to celebrate Christmas or New Year in view of the threat from Omicron.

"All District Magistrates and police officers (DCPs) shall ensure that no cultural event/gatherings/congregations take place for celebrating Christmas or New Year in NCT of Delhi," it said. All social, political, sports, entertainment, cultural and religious events are prohibited and no gatherings can be held.

According to Ma. Subramanian, the Tamil Nadu health minister, the state has 34 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant. J. Radhakrishnan, the state's health secretary said 45 people who returned from 21 different countries had tested positive on arrival.

"This included travellers from nine at-risk and 12 non-risk countries." On the eighth day, when they were tested again, 48 persons tested positive for Covid-19.

He added that the 34 who tested positive for the Omicron variant were brought under a four-tier safety circle.

On Thursday, Kerala reported five more cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, taking the total to 29. According to Veena George, the health minister, they included two from the UK and one from Albania and Nigeria. The fifth patient was in the Kozhikode district, who had travelled from Bangalore airport.

"With this, the total Omicron cases in Kerala has become 29," she said. "Of the total infected, 17 have reached the state from high-risk countries and 10 from low-risk ones."

The Karnataka government has asked health officials, deputy commissioners and district surveillance officials to track, trace and quarantine primary and secondary contacts of persons infected by Covid-19. About 300 Covid cases are reported daily in Karnataka, which also has 19 cases of Omicron.

"If left unchecked, this may trigger a spike in number of new infections," warned TK. Anil Kumar, principal secretary, health and family welfare.

"To sustain the gains achieved so far in surveillance, containment efforts and to make best efforts to prevent occurrence of the third wave of Covid infections in the state, it is necessary to trace, track and quarantine the primary and secondary contacts of Covid-19 positive persons, more effectively," he added.

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