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Omicron arrives in India, detected in man with no travel

1st two cases found in the southern state of Karnataka

A man takes coronavirus test in Mumbai. India's first two cases of the omicron variant have been detected in Karnataka state, about 650 km south of Mumbai.   © Reuters

NEW DELHI -- India reported its first two cases of omicron variant, health officials said on Thursday, with a medical doctor with no travel history testing positive as well as a South African national who left the country after testing negative.

The Health Ministry said the two cases had been detected in the southern state of Karnataka. Both were men and were 66 and 46 years old, respectively, with "mild" symptoms.

"All primary contacts and secondary contacts ... have been traced and are being tested," Lav Agarwal, joint secretary in the Health Ministry told reporters, without sharing their travel or vaccine history citing privacy issues. Local media reported that both are fully vaccinated.

Hours later, Karnataka state Health Minister Keshava Reddy Sudhakar told reporters the 66-year-old man left India on Nov. 27 for South Africa via Dubai after testing negative, but before omicron variant was detected in his sample through genomic sequencing. He stayed in the country for a week.

All 264 primary and secondary contacts of the man have tested negative, the minister said.

The other man is a 46-year-old medical doctor from Karnataka, who tested positive over a week ago. He had no travel history but might have come in contact with someone who did, the state health minister said. Five of his contacts have also tested positive for COVID-19, been isolated and had their samples sent for genomic sequencing to determine whether they also contained the new variant.

Genomic sequencing results of both cases of omicron variant in India came late on Wednesday, Agarwal said.

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