The time gap in detection
IFP Editorial: The first Omicron patient in Manipur touched down at Imphal Airport on December 13 and the test result of genome sequencing came only on December 27, the 15th day after arrival. He was not tested for Covid-19 upon arrival at the Imphal airport.
Updated on 28 Dec 2021, 11:10 pm
Representational Image (Photo: Pixabay)
Who would have thought that Manipur would become the first state in Northeast to report a case of the Omicron variant of Covid-19? After two successive waves of the pandemic, the state has been slowly beginning to recover with the daily positivity rate coming down to less than 1 pc for so many days.
Normal life has just begun with markets and shops open, schools and colleges beginning classes although with safety precautions and above all campaigning for the ensuing 2022 assembly elections had picked up in the last few days. Almost all political parties, particularly the ruling BJP, have been organising massive rallies with central leaders in attendance.
On the other hand, a race for recruitment for various levels of employees in different government departments and institutions had been kick-started and to conclude the process before the announcement of election dates and code of conduct, which is expected in the second week of January. And suddenly, Omicron rears its head in the state.
First detected in South Africa, it has now spread to 90 countries with 578 cases detected in India till Monday afternoon with Delhi, Maharashtra and Kerala leading the way with 142, 141 and 57 omicron cases respectively. An expert has claimed that while it would take weeks to judge the severity of the new Covid-19 variant Omicron, early indications suggested it was not worse than prior strains, and possibly milder. However, early clinical observations globally suggest that the Omicron variant of COVID-19 may be more transmissible and have a higher risk of reinfection compared to the Delta and Beta variants of the virus.
Out of four foreign returnees who were tested Covid-19 positive three were cleared after Whole genome sequencing, while one remained inconclusive. The person with Omicron infection came from Tanzania on December 11 after testing negative, he reached Kolkata Airport on December 12 and arrived at Imphal Airport on December 13 via Indigo flight No 6E-6014. While the person was undergoing strict home quarantine, he was tested positive for Covid-19 on December 21 on RT PCR. The test sample was sent for Whole Genome Sequencing to the Institute of Bio-resources and Sustainable Development (IBSD) Takyelpat. Soon after getting the genome sequencing report, the Health department immediately shifted him to a special isolation ward in a government hospital in Imphal.
During the contact tracing, three of his close associates were found to be positive on December 22, and the said three individuals were kept in the special isolation unit at RD Wing, Imphal. Samples of the three individuals have been sent for genome sequencing at IBSD, Imphal after the detection of the Omicron variant. According to Chief Minister N Biren Singh, the state government will soon announce SOP for the preventive measures after thoroughly consultating with medical experts and officials.
A cause for concern is the time gap in arrival at Imphal and final detection of the Omicron variant. He touched down at Imphal Airport on December 13 and the test result of genome sequencing came only on December 27, the 15th day after arrival. He was not tested for Covid-19 upon arrival at the Imphal airport, although the African state of Tanzania was among the list of ‘at-risk’ countries. It was only on December 21 that he was tested on RT-PCR during home quarantine and three of his associates were also tested Covid 19 positive.
Although, the person came along with a negative certificate from Tanzania, he should have been tested again at Imphal on the day of arrival itself. Think of the people he had come in contact with, even though the Health department says he was put under strict home quarantine. It is time for the state government to have a fresh look at the SOP of foreign arrivals once again.