Mumbai bans gatherings over concerns Omicron spreading locally

Officials bring in Section 144 which bans gatherings, as well as more stringent testing requirements

A man dressed as Santa Claus gives sanitiser to pupils as they attend school in Mumbai. AP
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Authorities in Mumbai have banned gatherings and imposed fresh restrictions ahead of the festive season to deal with rising Omicron cases after more than two dozen people were confirmed to be infected with the highly infectious Covid-19 variant.

Almost half of the 28 Omicron cases in India’s financial capital had no travel history, officials said, triggering concerns that the strain is already spreading locally.

Officials said Section 144 — which prohibits gatherings of more than four people outdoors — has been imposed for 15 days, until December 31, to stop the local transmission of the virus.

It also banned large religious or political gatherings and has increased testing in the city.

Separately, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation said that it had made vaccination compulsory for people planning to participate in or host Christmas or New Year events.

It has also allowed only fully vaccinated people to use public transport and made Covid-19 negative tests mandatory for domestic travellers.

Mumbai, the capital of western Maharashtra state, is India’s worst Covid-19-affected city, with a caseload of over 760,000 and 16,000 deaths reported since the pandemic hit the country in early 2020.

In recent months, daily infection rates have come down sharply to around 250 in the city, but officials fear the new variant that was first detected in South Africa in November could derail the progress.

A top health official said while updating the state cabinet on the Covid-19 situation that there could be a huge spike in the number of Omicron cases in January, including in rural areas.

“Omicron infections are increasing rapidly in the world and patients are also being detected in Maharashtra. These patients can be found not only in big cities but also in small towns. Next month, in January, a large number of people in the state will be infected with Omicron,” Dr Pradeep Vyas said.

India has seen a sharp increase in the number of Omicron cases after detecting its first case on December 2.

Central health officials said 78 cases have been detected across several Indian states, including a 7-year-old boy in eastern West Bengal state.

The child had arrived in Hyderabad from Abu Dhabi on December 11 and then travelled to the state capital, Kolkata. He was admitted to a hospital with mild symptoms.

The eastern state has also extended restrictions until January 15 amid Omicron concerns.

Updated: December 16, 2021, 1:32 PM