Indian doctor infected with Omicron variant urges public not to panic over new Covid-19 strain

He is feeling absolutely fine since testing positive 13 days ago


Joydeep Sengupta

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A health official gathers details before conducting Covid-19 coronavirus screening during an enforcement drive in Bangalore. – AFP
A health official gathers details before conducting Covid-19 coronavirus screening during an enforcement drive in Bangalore. – AFP

Published: Sat 4 Dec 2021, 6:22 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Dec 2021, 6:28 PM

A Bengaluru-based doctor — one of the four patients to have been found infected with the new Omicron variant of Covid-19 in India to date — has allayed the concerns of panic-stricken Indians.

The 46-year-old doctor, who is undergoing treatment at a hospital in Bengaluru (whose details are known to but has chosen not to disclose in a bid to protect the patient’s privacy) has appealed to the public to stay calm, undergo an immediate PCR test, self-isolate and get treated.

Similarly, his wife and children, who had earlier self-quarantined themselves, are undergoing treatment at the same hospital.

Though the doctor is feeling “absolutely fine” since he tested positive for the new Omicron variant on November 22, he is still in isolation at the Bengaluru hospital as a precautionary measure.

He was symptomatic, and initially suffered from body ache, chills, and later a fever that went up to 101 degrees Fahrenheit around three days after he tested positive. He suffered no breathing difficulties and his oxygen saturation (SPO2) levels were all along normal at around 95. However, he suffered a spell of dizziness.

The doctor categorically stated that the new Omicron variant is “not life threatening”.

However, he is unsure from where he contracted the contagion since he has not travelled to any of the 23 countries (India is the 24th), which have reported the new Omicron variant so far.

The genomic sequencing reports of his five positive contacts are not yet available.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Omicron a “variant of concern” last week after the strain was identified in South Africa. It quickly became a global cause for concern as speculation has been rife that the new viral strain could possibly evade vaccines and immunity acquired from the infection like the previous strains, including the most-dominant Delta variant.

Surveillance ramped up at Indian airports, but not for Arabian Gulf passengers

The Indian government has declared that all passengers coming from countries categorised “at risk” of Omicron have to be screened. They have to undergo mandatory PCR tests at their own expense of ₹Rs3,900 (Dh200) on arrival. If any of these passengers test positive, then their samples are sent further for genome sequencing to ascertain the variant of the virus. The infected patients are shifted to a separate isolation facility and treated as per laid down standard protocol, including contact tracing. A small percentage of passengers arriving from countries that are not “at risk” of Omicron are also undergoing PCR tests on a random basis.

However, passengers arriving from Arabian Gulf countries, who have not travelled to any of the “at risk” countries in the last 14 days, are exempt from undergoing PCR tests at Indian airports.

However, they must show a printed copy of the Air Suvidha form, which is an online mechanism for international passengers where they need to submit a mandatory self-declaration form to declare their current health status, and their boarding pass to the airport authorities, who, in turn, stamp their approval to facilitate the passengers to proceed to immigration, baggage claims and Customs prior to their exit from airports.

The surveillance mechanism at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport is stringent following the deployment of scores of civil defence personnel.

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