India confirms two Omicron cases and urges vaccine uptake

More than 56 per cent of Indians have received at least one vaccine dose

Pupils apply finishing touches to paintings made to boost awareness of the new coronavirus Omicron variant, in Mumbai. Reuters

India confirmed its first cases of the new Omicron Covid-19 variant on Thursday, detected in two people who have travelled abroad.

Officials did not say where the two men in Karnataka state had arrived from, or if they had been vaccinated.

India has already classified several countries as “at risk” in response to the omicron variant, and travellers from those countries are being tested after they arrive in India. India is also testing 2 per cent of all international travellers randomly.

In addition, genome sequencing is being carried out to detect the variant. India has tested nearly 8,000 passengers since Wednesday.

Balram Bhargava, head of the Indian Council of Medical Research, India’s top medical research organisation, on Thursday urged people not to panic and to get vaccinated.

“Increased vaccine uptake is the need of the hour. Don’t delay in getting fully vaccinated,” he said.

More than 56 per cent of Indians have received at least one vaccine dose — 32 per cent are fully vaccinated and 24 per cent have received a single shot, according to Our World In Data.

Dr Chandrakant Lahariya, a health policy expert, said the focus should be on finding the unvaccinated and making sure they receive shots. “Some of the hesitancy may disappear on the news of the new variant. But this can’t be taken for granted,” he said.

Some Indian states have issued strict restrictions on international arrivals as precautionary measures, including mandatory Covid-19 tests for those arriving from South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong.

Updated: December 2nd 2021, 3:44 PM