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Maharashtra health minister asks people to wear masks as cases of B.A. sub-lineage of Omicron found for first time in state

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MUMBAI: Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope has said residents of districts in the state which are reporting an increase in daily coronavirus infections should start taking more caution and wear masks.

Maharashtra on Saturday reported 529 new COVID-19 cases, but no virus-related death.

The state had recorded 536 new cases and zero deaths on Friday, as per official figures.

The mask mandate was lifted in the state last month.

For the first time in Maharashtra, four patients of B.A.4 sub-lineage and three cases of B.A.5 sub-lineage of the highly-transmissible Omicron variant of coronavirus have also been found, the state health department said on Saturday.

These were mild sub-lineages and there was no cause for concern, a senior health official said.

The sub-lineages of Omicron were found in April in some parts of the world including South Africa.

Last week, cases were also reported in Tamil Nadu and Telangana in India.

"The whole-genome sequencing was conducted by the Institute of Science Education and Research, and its finding has been confirmed by the Indian Biological Data Centre in Faridabad. As many as seven patients, all from Pune, were detected with the infection of the sub-lineage of Omicron," a health department official said.

"Four patients have the infection of B.A.4 variant while others have contracted the B.A.5. Four of them are men and three women. Four patients are above 50 years of age while two are in 20-40 age group while one patient is a nine-year-old child," he added.

"All the six adults have completed both the dosages of vaccine while one has taken the booster shot too. The child is unvaccinated. All of them had mild symptoms of COVID-19 and were treated successfully in home isolation," the official said.

Their samples were taken between May 4 and 18.

Two of them had travelled to South Africa and Belgium, while three had travelled to Kerala and Karnataka.

The other two patients had no recent travel history, he said.

Dr Pradeep Awate, epidemiologist and the State Surveillance Officer, Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme, said that B.A.4 and B.A.5 are sub-lineages of Omicron which itself is known for being mild. Hence, "there is nothing to worry about its sub-lineages," he said.

"However, it is highly transmissible, which is one of the reasons behind the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the last couple of weeks. The cases are steadily going up everywhere, but patients are not being hospitalised in large numbers," Awate added.

"There is no severity found in the infection of these Omicron sub-lineages. But state officials are closely watching the situation," he said.

On May 22, a B.A.4. case was found in Tamil Nadu while a B.A.5 infection was reported in Telangana.

Tope told reporters here on Saturday that though the COVID-19 cases are increasing, very few deaths on account of the virus are being reported.

"The (people living in) districts which are reporting an increase in the daily COVID-19 cases should start taking extra care, including wearing of masks. The daily cases number is on the rise, but it is still under control," he said.

Instructions have been given to health officials to undertake necessary steps to contain the spread of the virus, the minister added.

On Saturday, Mumbai reported 330 new COVID-19 cases, followed by neighbouring Thane city with 38 cases, Pune- 32 and Navi Mumbai-31.

Mumbai circle, which includes neighbouring satellite towns and municipal corporations, reported 448 cases of COVID-19, while the Pune circle recorded 64 infections, according to official data.

 

(THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)

29 Days ago