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Omicron Covid variant: No evidence of importation in Tamil Nadu, says health secretary

Our Bureau | | Updated on: Nov 28, 2021
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In advisory to district collectors, he underlines need to continue to observe Covid appropriate behaviour

There is still substantial uncertainty related to the Omicron variant, with regard to its transmissibility, immune escape potential (from infection and vaccine induced immunity), severity of disease, and response to available countermeasures (eg diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics). At present, there is no evidence of importation and transmission of the variant in Tamil Nadu, said Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan in a letter to all district collectors and the Commissioner of the Greater Chennai Corporation.

As travel has been continuing between the affected countries and other nations, it is possible that despite a tightening of surveillance measures, the Omicron variant might still slip in or get introduced.

 

Given its immune escape potential and possible transmissibility advantage compared to the Delta variant (as indicated by the rapid surge in South Africa), the likelihood of potential introduction and subsequent transmission in other countries is rated as high.

 

In case there is another surge in Covid-19 infection driven by the Omicron variant in the region, the consequences will be tough and hence we have to take all measures to prevent its entry into our State. Like the Delta variant, this may also pose overwhelming demands on the healthcare system, and may lead to increased morbidity and mortality. The impact on vulnerable populations would be enormous, he said in an advisory.

The overall risk related to the novel variant Omicron for the South-East Asia Region is thus considered high. This assessment is based on considerable uncertainty and will be updated by WHO and the national agencies as more information becomes available.

In view of the emergence of the new variant, countries should plan for the potential introduction and subsequent spread of Omicron. The variant has not yet been detected and is considered not yet present in the State. It is considered not yet present in the community, but at some stage may be detected among incoming travellers; It could at some point be detected in the community, as sporadic cases or within a few manageable clusters and in rare cases, if despite the preventive and control strategy and measures, the novel variant Omicron becomes wide spread in communities.

Only after watching the international situation and the developing stories and trends in the coming weeks, can this be assessed, he said.

Radhakrishnan said the background information on the new variant was not only aimed at sensitising the districts on the emerging scenario, but also to ensure that the state is adequately prepared and ready to tackle any public health challenge.

“At this stage, I would also like to caution that we should be alert and sensitise the public about the fact that the other Delta variant is still active and the standard five-pronged strategy of Test, Trace, Treat, Vaccination of eligible persons and follow-up of Covid appropriate behaviour and strict implementation and enforcement of the standard operating procedures for permitted activities, continue to be even more relevant now than ever,” he said.

Published on November 29, 2021

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