December 7: The new variant of the novel coronavirus, Omicron, has been detected in Nepal. The new variant, which the WHO has labeled as 'of concern' has been found in two persons in Nepal 12 days after it was first reported in South Africa on November 24.
Joint-spokesperson of the Ministry of Health and Population, Dr Samir Adhikari confirmed that the new variant was found in samples taken from two suspected persons. The tests were conducted on Sunday at the National Public Health Laboratory.
He said that the new variant was confirmed in a 66-year-old foreign national and a 71-year-old Nepali who had come in contact with the foreigner. They had arrived in Nepal from South Africa via Tribhuvan International Airport.
The Omicron variant was confirmed through gene sequencing test in the laboratory.
Initially, the PCR test carried out on the foreigner showed negative result when he first came to Nepal. It was found that he had also taken full dose of vaccine against COVID-19. Tests were conducted again when they showed symptoms resembling COVID-19.
Joint-spokesperson Adhikari said both of them are kept in isolation as per the standard set by the government and are recuperating at present. They are not showing any symptom now and are under the supervision of the health workers.
Meanwhile, PCR tests carried on 66 persons who were included in 'contact tracing' of the two infected ones showed negative report.
Dr Adhikari said that surveillance and contact tracing would be made more effective after the variant was reported in the country.
As part of the government's efforts to curb the virus, it requires negative PCR reports and COVID-19 vaccination certificate for passengers to enter the country through the Tribhuvan International Airport and various transit points with neighbouring India and China.
In a bid to curb the spread of the variant, a cabinet meeting on November 29 had decided not to grant entry to Nepal for people coming from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Malawi and Hong Kong where the virus variant has been reported.
Research about the scientific fact regarding the transmission rate of Omicron virus and medical complications due to infection is underway. There are many variants of Omicron and some of them are of concern.
The ministry has requested all to follow health protocols (appropriate use of mask, maintain social distancing, washing hands) and to participate in vaccination campaign to remain safe from Omicron variant as like other variants of COVID-19.
According to the ministry, Omicron variant has already spread in 35 countries of the world. A total of 574 people have been infected with Omicron virus in these countries so far.
Preliminary assessment by the World Health Organisation has mentioned that South East Asia is at high risk of Omicron. Omicron has already been confirmed in some of the countries of South Asia. Omicron was confirmed in India on Friday.
The first coronavirus infection case was detected in Nepal on January 23, 2020. It was found in a person who had come to Nepal from Wuhan of China. -- RSS