India confirms first Omicron-related death as Covid-19 cases jump

India on Wednesday confirmed its first death linked to the Omicron variant of Sars-CoV-2 after a deceased Udaipur resident’s sample showed presence of the virus. Meanwhile, cases continued to climb sharply across major cities – Mumbai’s fresh Covid cases breached the 15,000 mark, up almost 40 percent from Tuesday, while Delhi’s cases nearly doubled to 10,665.

The country had 214,004 active Covid19 cases as of Wednesday, and reported 58,097 fresh cases on January 5. The Health Ministry said that 43 districts in India are reporting a weekly positivity between 5 per cent to 10 per cent now.

The 73-year old man had died last week in a Udaipur hospital due to post-Covid pneumonia coupled with comorbidities like diabetes and hypertension.

The man had tested positive for Covid-19 on December 15 and was admitted to the hospital with symptoms of fever, cough and rhinitis. He had tested negative twice – December 21 and December 25. The results of genome sequencing of his sample now showed that he was infected with the Omicron variant.

The death reported from Udaipur was “technically” related to Omicron, Joint Secretary in the Health Ministry Lav Agarwal said at a press conference here on Wednesday.

As cases continued to rise across the country, several state governments were forced to issue fresh guidelines on restrictions.

Cases jumped by 58 per cent in a span of 24-hours in Tamil Nadu, forcing the state government to come up with fresh guidelines, including Sunday lockdown, night curfews starting from Thursday, among others. Raising panic, over 45 students were tested positive at Madras Institute of Technology forcing the management to stop classes till January 28.

Cases in Delhi almost doubled to 10,665 on Wednesday with the daily positivity rate reaching 11.88 per cent. The number of severe patients on ventilators also increased to 22 from 14 on Tuesday. Delhi government said that at this time, there will be no lockdown in the national capital and that construction work will continue. “There is no need for workers to panic. Some restrictions are required to ensure public health,” said Satyendar Jain, Delhi health minister.

This is the fifth wave to hit Delhi. Jain also said that there was no need now to do genome sequencing of all samples and that it was just a research process to see if Omicron was spreading in society. A statement by the Delhi government said that out of the 418 beds made available to patients yesterday, 308 were not in need of any additional medical assistance, indicating mild symptoms.

The statement also said that 531 coronavirus-infected patients have been admitted to hospitals. “When the cases were equal in number, there was a 15 per cent occupancy rate of beds in the previous wave of Corona, which is around 3 per cent in the current situation.”

Mumbai too continued to grapple to contain the spike in fresh cases – on Wednesday the city reported 15166 fresh cases, leading to 1218 fresh hospitalizations in the city. Nearly 15 percent (14.4 percent) of Mumbai’s Covid beds are now occupied. City civic body BMC commissioner IS Chahal has said, “Unless 20,000 hospital beds occupied I will not look at fresh lockdown-like restrictions, current hospitalisation rate less than 5%”.

While Mumbai is not looking at immediate lockdowns, Tamil Nadu will start Sunday lockdowns starting from January 9.

Though restaurants are permitted to deliver food between 7 am and 10 pm on lockdown days, all other non-essential activities will be restricted. As per the decision, a curfew will be imposed from 10 pm to 5 am on weekdays from Thursday. Though during lockdown shopping malls, businesses, shops, restaurants are allowed to operate. However, during this nighttime curfew, only essential activities will be allowed.

Bengaluru’s positivity rate spiked up to 6.45 per cent on Wednesday with 3,605 new cases, said Karnataka health minister K Sudhakar. The city accounts for 85 per cent of Karnataka’s cases. While the state figure has nearly doubled in 24 hours to 4,246, the total number of Omicron cases in the state is 226.

Amid surging Covid-19 cases, the state government on Tuesday imposed fresh curbs in Karnataka. As per the new guidelines, a weekend curfew will be implemented in the state from Friday 10 pm to Monday 5 am for the next two weeks.

West Bengal added 14,022 new Covid cases on Wednesday as the state’s positivity rate climbed to 23.17 percent. Kolkata recorded 6,170 cases.

Amid rising Covid cases, the West Bengal government on Wednesday deferred the 27th Kolkata Film Festival scheduled to be held between January 7 -14, 2022.

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