Karnataka: 29 Nursing Students Test Positive; New Rules in Place Amid Omicron Scare

Amid growing concerns over the new coronavirus variant Omicron, at least 29 students of a private nursing school in Karnataka ’s Shivamogga have tested positive for Covid-19, officials said on Sunday.

Most of the students are asymptomatic, Shivamogga Deputy Commissioner KB Sivakumar told. “We are doing random sampling at many places and found out that few students, who came from different states at a private nursing school, contracted COVID. We have sealed the hostel premises. Around 29 students have turned positive from the institution,” he said.

The Deputy Commissioner has instructed people from the area to be tested as a precautionary measure to check the infection spread.

Meanwhile, as many as 69 people including 59 students of the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya in Chikkamagaluru have tested positive for COVID-19 and all are asymptomatic, a health officer said. “We had conducted tests on 457 people in the JNV here, of which 59 students and 10 staff tested positive for COVID-19. They are asymptomatic but we have isolated them,” District Health Officer Dr S N Umesh told.

India’s first two cases of Omicron, a South African national and a Bengaluru physician, was detected in Karnataka on December 2 following which Maharashtra and Gujarat also reported the presence of the new variant on December 4.

Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Saturday said that any area with three or more cases of coronavirus in the state would be declared as a cluster. “Earlier, we had decided to identify a place as cluster with 10 COVID-19 cases, but now we have decided to minimise it to three. People in that area will undergo tests, treatment and vaccination,” he said.

He said he has observed that cases are emerging in two types of clusters in the state — one in schools and colleges and the other, in residential apartments in Bengaluru. Bommai said double dose of vaccine has been made mandatory for parents of students who attend regular classes and that testing is compulsory for all the inmates and staff of student hostels.

The tests would also be mandatory for those with co-morbidities, the Chief Minister said, adding that officials have been instructed to take foolproof measures.

Top Karnataka virologist Dr V Ravi told Karnataka was the first state to detect Alpha strain and is taking measures including tracking and tracing.

The detection of the new variant labelled as “variant if concern” by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the Karnataka patient who has no travel history has raised eyebrows.

However, Dr Ravi denied the chances of possible community transmission.

“During the first wave, we had found a cluster of cases in a pharma company where the index patient never met or went anywhere possible to catch an infection but came in contact with a foreigner one month ago who visited their factory,” Ravi said.

Similarly, in this case, the male has no travel history nor did he meet any potential infector. “He might have caught it through secondary or tertiary contact of any foreigner,” he said, adding that “it’s not possible to join all the dots in public health.”

“We can call community transmission if we find Omicron-positive people in clusters but with just one odd case, it will be too soon to label it as community transmission.”

Chief Minister Bommai said that experts have opined that Omicron is a fast spreading variant, but has not shown severe implications. “However instructions have been issued to intensify tracing and treatment,” Bommai said.

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