Mumbai | Jagran News Desk: Maharashtra Health Minister on Monday said that no cases of the 'Omicron' strain of COVID-19, dubbed as 'variant of concern' by the World Health Organisation (WHO), was found in the state. His clarification came after a South Africa returnee tested positive for the infection in the state.

The patient had returned to India from Cape Town last week. On November 24, he travelled to Dombivali in the Thane district but tested positive for COVID-19 later. Officials, however, said that he did not come in contact with anyone after returning from South Africa.

Speaking to reporters, a senior district official said that the man has been admitted at the Art Gallery isolation centre of the Kalyan-Dombivali Municipal Corporation (KDMC), adding that his samples were sent for genome sequencing to confirm whether or not he is positive for the 'Omicron' variant.

"He had travelled from South Africa to Delhi and Delhi-Mumbai; quarantined at Municipal Corporation's isolation room. His brother tested negative, remaining family to be tested today," KDMC's Dr Pratibha Panpatil was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.

The Omicron variant has triggered panic across the world, forcing countries to reimpose travel restrictions. Last week, the WHO has warned countries over Omicron, asking them to be vigilant against the new strain and ensure that appropriate COVID-19 norms are followed.

"This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning," the WHO said. "Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs."

On Sunday night, the Centre also revised the guidelines for international passengers travelling from or transiting through 'at-risk' countries and issued a slew of directions to the states for ramping up testing-surveillance measures and health facilities.

The Centre has also asked all states and UTs to focus on intensive containment, active surveillance, enhanced testing, monitoring of hotspots, increased coverage of vaccination and augmentation of health infrastructure.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray also held a crucial meet on Sunday to review the COVID-19 situation in the state and urged people to follow COVID-appropriate behaviour, saying another lockdown must be avoided.

He also asked the state authorities to take necessary steps on a war footing to protect citizens from the new variant without waiting for the Centre's directives in this regard.

"The challenge of the new variant Omicron and its severity will also have to be tackled by the administration in Mumbai and rest of the state. If the virus spreads again, we can't afford steps like a lockdown. If that is to be avoided, COVID-appropriate behaviour is a must. Regular use of face mask, avoiding crowd, maintaining physical distancing, have to be followed," he said.

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma