Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope on Friday said the swab samples of 28 persons, who returned to the state from high-risk countries last month with nine of them already testing COVID-19 positive, have been sent for genome sequencing amid concerns over the new Omicron variant of the virus.
Tope gave the information while talking to reporters in his home district Jalna.
“The international travellers who arrived in Mumbai from the high-risk countries have been identified and the swab samples of 28 such persons have been sent for genome sequencing. Out of them, nine persons have already tested COVID-19 positive.
“However, we are yet to establish whether they are carrying the new Omicron variant,” he said.
“We expect to get their genome sequencing report in two days and the next course of action will be decided in case any of them is found infected with the new variant,” the minister added.
As many as 2,868 persons have returned to the state from various countries between November 10 and 30, he said, adding that the state government has so far tested 485 of them and nine of them have tested positive for COVID-19.
The state health department has instructed the staff to isolate the international travellers, who have tested positive for the infection, an official said.
“We are trying to keep them away from the other COVID-19 patients as there is little information available about the new variant and its impact on our lives,” the official from the health department said.
The first cases of Omicron variant in India have been confirmed in two individuals in Karnataka.
Maharashtra on Thursday amended its air travel rules making seven-day institutional quarantine mandatory for passengers from only three ‘high-risk’ countries — South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe.
Earlier, the state government’s November 30 order had made institutional quarantine mandatory for passengers arriving from all ‘at risk’ countries in the central government’s list in view of global concerns over the Omicron variant of coronavirus.
The Omicron strain, first detected in South Africa, has been classified as a ‘variant of concern’ by the World Health Organisation (WHO).