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India's Omicron tally crosses 200; 'activate' war rooms, says Centre

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Omicron scare: In a letter to states and Union territories, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan advised implementing strategic interventions for containment like imposition of night curfew, strict regulation of large gatherings, curtailing numbers in marriages and funerals besides increasing testing and surveillance.

India's Omicron tally crosses 200; 'activate' war rooms, says Centre
Jammu & Kashmir and Odisha on Tuesday recorded their first cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 as the count of the new strain in 14 states and union territories crossed 200. The Centre said there is a need to "activate" war rooms, take "pro-active" measures and consider night curfews. According to the latest data from the Centre and the states on Tuesday night, India recorded 220 cases of the Omicron variant, 19 days after the first two cases in the country were detected in Karnataka on December 2.
While health authorities in J & K said three persons tested positive for the Omicron variant in Jammu, the tally in Maharashtra and Telangana rose to 65 and 24 respectively with the addition of 11 and four cases of the potentially contagious strain. Officials in Jammu said the three affected people have no foreign travel history and their condition is stable. RT-PCR testing of the entire locality ordered, the Health and Medical Education department J&K wrote on its official twitter handle.

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At least two people in Odisha tested positive for the Omicron variant, the first cases of the latest version of coronavirus in the state, state officials said. Bhubaneswar-based Institute of Life Sciences (ILS) detected the variant in the two patients after conducting the genome sequencing of 12 samples. Both of them have travel history to foreign nations -- Nigeria and Qatar -- the officials said.
In a letter to states and Union territories, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan advised implementing strategic interventions for containment like imposition of night curfew, strict regulation of large gatherings, curtailing numbers in marriages and funerals besides increasing testing and surveillance. Keeping in view the COVID-19 situation and the rising number of cases of the Omicron variant, the Karnataka government said no parties or mass gatherings would be permitted in the state from December 30 to January 2.


"We had a meeting with experts through video conference regarding the new year celebrations, keeping in mind the COVID-19 and Omicron-related cases," Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai told reporters in Bengaluru. On their recommendation, the government decided to prohibit mass gatherings in the city and other public places in the state.
In his letter to the states and union territories, Secretary Bhushan flagged measures that need to be taken. "At the district level there should be constant review of emerging data regarding the population affected by COVID-19, geographical spread, hospital infrastructure and its utilisation, manpower, notifying containment zones, enforcement of perimeter of containment zones etc," Bhushan said in the letter.
"Kindly activate the war rooms/EOCs (emergency operation centres) and keep analysing all trends and surges, no matter how small, and keep taking proactive action at the district/local level," he wrote.

In case of all new clusters of COVID positive cases, prompt notification of "containment zones", "buffer zones" should be done, strict perimeter control of containment zone according to extant guidelines must be ensured.
All cluster samples must be sent to INSACOG Labs for Genome Sequencing without delay, Bhushan underlined. The letter highlighted that test positivity of 10 percent or more in the last one week or bed occupancy of 40 percent or more on oxygen-supported or ICU beds should be main elements of the framework to be used by states and union territories to facilitate decision making at the district level.
"Based on current scientific evidence, the VOC (variant of concern) Omicron is at least 3 times more transmissible than Delta.Besides, Delta  is still present in different parts of the country. Hence, even greater foresight, data analysis, dynamic decision making and strict and prompt containment action is required at the local and district level," he said.
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