Assam on Wednesday reported its first Omicron case after a Saudi Arabia returnee tested positive for the new coronavirus variant, Health Minister Keshab Mahanta said. The 35-year-old man, who hails from Hojai district, was found infected with the Omicron variant, he said.
His sample was sent to the Jorhat-based North East Institute of Science and Technology as he had tested positive for COVID-19 after his return from the West Asian country, the minister said. “His report for genome sequencing came during the day. But by this time, he has already recovered from the infection,” Mahanta said. A teenager from Digaru area in Kamrup Metropolitan district had also tested positive for the new strain of coronavirus, but his sample was taken to Meghalaya, the minister said.
“Once we were alerted about his status, we started contact tracing of his family members and others. All protocols are being followed,” Mahanta said. He stated that the state government has been monitoring on international travellers with rising cases of Omicron variant in the country. During the period between December 1, 2021 and January 4 this year, 3,198 people had entered the northeastern state from foreign countries, and of them, 52 were found infected with COVID-19, including the one who contracted the Omicron strain, the minister said. Since December 12, the state has sent 1,598 samples of COVID-positive patients to a Kolkata laboratory for genome sequencing, he said.
Of these, reports of 1,348 samples have been received, and all were found negative for the new variant, the minister said, adding that besides monitoring the situation in view of the rising Omicron cases in the country, the authorities are also gearing up to tackle any increase in overall COVID infections. He pointed out that the state had reported 150 and 156 new COVID-19 cases on January 1 and 2 respectively, and the numbers had shot up to 351 and 475 on the two consecutive days, with the most infections being reported from Kamrup Metropolitan district.
The district comprises the state’s largest city Guwahati. Mahanta said the government is strengthening infrastructure in hospitals and COVID care centres to manage hospitalisation of at least 25,000 patients. At least 8,539 beds, including 4,991 isolation and 935 ICU beds, are already ready, the minister said, adding that only five per cent of these beds are currently occupied. “We will hold a meeting with the chief minister on Thursday morning. Decisions on how to tackle the emerging situation will be taken,” Mahanta added.