India on Thursday confirmed its first cases of the omicron coronavirus variant in two people who traveled abroad, and a top medical expert urged people to get vaccinated.
The Health Ministry said the cases include two men in southern Karnataka state who came from abroad. It did not say which country.
Health official Lav Agarwal said all contacts of the two men had been traced and tested for the virus.
India has already classified at least 12 “at risk” and six “ultra-risk” countries in response to the threat posed by the omicron variant.
Travelers from those countries are being tested after they arrive in India. Genome sequencing is also being done to detect the variant. So far, India has tested nearly 8,000 passengers since Wednesday.
Balram Bhargava, the head of the Indian Council of Medical Research, India’s apex medical research body, urged people not to panic and to get vaccinated.
“Increased vaccine uptake is the need of the hour. Don’t delay in getting fully vaccinated,” he said.
Some Indian states have issued strict restriction guidelines for international arrivals as precautionary measures, including mandatory COVID-19 tests for those originating from South Africa, Botswana, and Hong Kong.
More than 56% of Indians have received at least one shot — 32% are fully vaccinated and 24% have received a single shot, according to Our World In Data. (AP)