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What you need to know about Omicron today

  Germany's health minister Karl Lauterbach ruled out a Christmas lockdown amid warnings of a fifth Covid-19 wave

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday urged the Centre to allow for booster dosage for people in Delhi who have taken both shots of Covid-19 vaccines. Raising alarms over the Omicron variant, the chief minister said that 99 per cent of people in Delhi have been inoculated with at least a single dose of the vaccine as the national capital recorded 107 new Covid-19 cases on Sunday, its highest daily rise in nearly six months.
The statement comes in the backdrop of India's Omicron tally crossing the 160 mark after Maharashtra reported six and Gujarat logged four more cases of the new variant of coronavirus. Omicron cases have been detected in 12 states and union territories -- Maharashtra (54), Delhi (24), Rajasthan (17) and Karnataka (14), Telangana (20), Gujarat (11), Kerala (15), Andhra Pradesh (1), Chandigarh (1), Tamil Nadu (1) and West Bengal (1).
In a bid to tackle the Omicron variant, which is speculated to likely fuel another wave of coronavirus, the Delhi government has decided that samples of all Covid-positive patients will be sent for genome sequencing henceforth. So far, genome sequencing was only done for incoming travelers from at-risk countries. "Given the rise in cases for some days, now all positive cases in Delhi will be sent for genome sequencing for Omicron," said Kejriwal.
Telangana health authorities have started stopping passengers coming from non-risk countries until their RT-PCR test reports come clean. Earlier, only 2 per cent of passengers coming from non-risk countries were stopped for random RT-PCR tests (as per central guidelines) while they were allowed to proceed further without awaiting results.
Meanwhile, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has designed a diagnostic kit for the detection of the Omicron variant of coronavirus. The novel technology has been developed by ICMR-Regional Medical Research Centre in Dibrugarh. The health body has invited an Expression of Interest from in vitro diagnostics (IVD) kit manufacturers for undertaking transfer of technology for its development and commercialisation.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that the country is going through a fifth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic due to the Omicron variant. In a live televised address, Bennett said Israel had gained a reprieve by moving fast to limit travel to Omicron-hit countries last month, but that this was waning. He predicted a surge of sicknesses within a few weeks.
Germany's health minister Karl Lauterbach ruled out a Christmas lockdown amid warnings of a fifth Covid-19 wave. Backing vaccination, he said, "There will not be a lockdown before Christmas here. But we will get the fifth wave - we have crossed a critical number of Omicron infections. This wave can no longer be completely stopped."
In France, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said that the government has no plans to extend the Christmas school holidays because of the rapid spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant. French conservative presidential candidate Valerie Pecresse has called for an extension of them in order to help ensure any infections caught over year-end holidays are discovered before children return to school.
According to a study in the UK, scientists found that there is "no evidence" that Omicron has a lower severity than the Delta strain. They also observed that the new variant of coronavirus largely evades immunity from past infection or two vaccine doses. The study by researchers from Imperial College London in the UK estimates that the risk of reinfection with the Omicron variant is 5.4 times greater than that of the Delta variant.
Meanwhile, White House's top medical adviser Anthony Fauci on Sunday said that the Covid-19 omicron variant is "just raging around the world," and that the US President is planning to give "a stark warning of what the winter will look" for unvaccinated Americans. "The real problem for the US hospital system is that we have so many people in this country who are eligible to be vaccinated who have not yet been vaccinated," Fauci said.



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