Union govt confirms presence of BA.4, BA.5 Omicron sub-variants in India

In a statement, the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) said one case has been detected in Tamil Nadu and another in Telangana.
Omicron ward in Ahmedabad
Omicron ward in Ahmedabad
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The INSACOG has confirmed the presence of the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron sub-variants of the coronavirus in India -- one case in Tamil Nadu and another in Telangana. BA.4 and BA.5 are sub-variants of the highly-transmissible Omicron variant of the virus.

In a statement on Sunday, the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG), which comes under the Department of Biotechnology in the Ministry of Science & Technology, said a 19-year-old woman in Tamil Nadu has been found infected with the BA.4 sub-variant of the virus. The patient has shown only mild clinical symptoms and has been fully vaccinated. She had no travel history.

Earlier, a South African national was reported positive for the BA.4 sub-variant of Omicron on arrival at the Hyderabad airport.

In another case, an 80-year-old man in Telangana has tested positive for the BA.5 sub-variant of the virus. He has shown only mild clinical symptoms and has been fully vaccinated. The patient had no travel history.

"Contact tracing of the BA.4 and BA.5 patients is being undertaken as a precautionary measure," the INSACOG said.

BA.4 and BA.5 are sub-variants of the Omicron variant circulating globally. These were first reported from South Africa earlier this year and are now being reported from several other countries.

The INSACOG said these sub-variants have not been associated with disease severity or increased hospitalisation.

Meanwhile, the head of the World Health Organisation warned Sunday that the COVID-19 pandemic is most certainly not over, despite a decline in reported cases since the peak of the omicron wave. He told governments that we lower our guard at our peril. 

The UN health agency's director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told officials gathered in Geneva for opening of the WHO's annual meeting that declining testing and sequencing means we are blinding ourselves to the evolution of the virus. He also noted that almost 1 billion people in lower-income countries still haven't been vaccinated. 

In a weekly report Thursday on the global situation, WHO said the number of new COVID-19 cases appears to have stabilised after weeks of decline since late March, while the overall number of weekly deaths dropped.

While there has been progress, with 60 per cent of the world's population vaccinated, it's not over anywhere until it's over everywhere, Tedros said.

Reported cases are increasing in almost 70 countries in all regions, and this in a world in which testing rates have plummeted, he added. 

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