By Sharad Sharma, Kathmandu, Dec 6: The new variant of the novel coronavirus, Omicron, has been detected in Nepal. The new variant, which the WHO has labelled 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 Kumar Adhikari confirmed that the new variant was found in samples taken from two suspected persons and carrying out tests on Sunday at the National Public Health Laboratory.
As he said, the new variant was confirmed in a 66-year-old foreign national and a 71-year-old who had come in his contact. They had arrived in Nepal from South Africa via Tribhuvan International Airport.
The Omicron was found through a gene sequencing test in the laboratory.
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.
The PCR test carried out on the foreigner showed negative results when he first came to Nepal. It was found that he had also taken full dose of vaccine against COVID-19. A test was conducted on them on November 23 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 recuperating their health at present. They are not showing any symptoms now and are under the supervision of the health workers.
Meanwhile, a PCR test carried on 66 persons who were included in 'contact tracing' of the two infected ones showed a negative report.
He said that surveillance and contact tracing would be made more effective following the variant reported in the country.
As part of the government's efforts to curb the virus, it requires negative PCR reports and COVID-19 vaccination reports for passengers at the Tribhuvan International Airport and at various transits with neighbouring India and China. Similarly, COVID-19 antigen tests for people entering Nepal through the borders with the countries have been managed, said Dr Adhikari. People having antigen tested positive for the virus will be PCR tested, he said.
In a bid to curb the spread of the variant, a Cabinet meeting on November 29 had decided not to grant Nepal entry for people going through 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 the 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 all the health protocols (appropriate use of mask, maintain social distancing, washing hands) and to participate in vaccination campaign to be protected from Omicron as like other variants of COVID-19.
According to the Ministry, the Omicron variant has already spread in 35 countries of the world. A total of 574 people have been infected with the Omicron virus in these countries so far.
A 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.