NEW DELHI : The first confirmed case of the BA.4 subvariant of Omicron prompted the National Center for Disease Control (NCDC) to resume contact tracing after a nearly three-month hiatus.
An NCDC team has already tested 24-25 people who came into direct contact with the African national infected with the BA.4 subvariant, India’s first case detected in Hyderabad, a government official said on condition of anonymity. .
The Union Health Ministry and the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) convened a meeting on Friday to firm up a surveillance strategy. Last week, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) asked countries to be vigilant about the BA.4 and BA.5 variants after a spike in BA.5 infections in Portugal.
“In February, the government stopped contact tracing. However, after a meeting between INSACOG and the Union Department of Health, extensive contact tracing was initiated for those who came into contact with the person. The report is expected to arrive next week,” the official said.
On Thursday, Mint reported that the African national had landed in India for a business meeting but was found to be covid positive upon arrival at Hyderabad airport. His sample was sent for sequencing and turned out to be BA.4. Questions directed to a Department of Health spokesperson early on Friday did not elicit a response before press time.
According to the World Health Organization, contact tracing is key to stopping the transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Although the ECDC has declared BA.4 and BA.5 variants of concern, experts have said that at present it is difficult to predict public health problems. “INASCOG is a variant mapping platform. Other variants will appear, but only time will tell if a new variant is a public health concern. So there should be no panicking or lowering vigilance,” said Dr Samiran Panda, additional chief executive of the Indian Council of Medical Research.
In the last 24 hours, 2,259 new covid cases were reported in India, bringing the number of active cases to 15,044 with a weekly positivity rate of 0.53%. Delhi (2,377), Haryana (1,248), Uttar Pradesh (898), Kerala (3,579), Karnataka (1,726) and Maharashtra (1,720) have the maximum active cases. About 2,614 patients have recovered from covid in the past 24 hours.
Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan also called on states and union territories to speed up vaccination given the steady decline in the number of vaccines in some states.