The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG), a government body that monitors genomic data, said on Monday that two cases of the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron sub-variants of the coronavirus were confirmed in the country.
Both cases were found in the southern region, with one reported in the Tamil Nadu state and the other in Telangana, it said. A South African national had earlier tested positive for the new, highly infectious variant, after arriving at the Hyderabad city airport.
While the identities of the patients have not been revealed, the statement said the first patient in Telangana is a fully vaccinated 80-year-old man who tested positive for the BA.5 sub-variant.
The second patient in Tamil Nadu was also a fully vaccinated person, a 19-year-old woman. Both patients have no travel history, and both are said to have mild symptoms.
Confirmation of the variant in patients who have not travelled anywhere recently suggests that internal transmission of the sub-variant has begun.
“Contact tracing of the BA.4 and BA.5 patients is being undertaken as a precautionary measure,” the INSACOG said.
While the government body said these sub-variants have not been associated with increased disease severity or hospitalisation, the rapid spread of BA.4 and BA.5, first reported from South Africa earlier this year, has been worrying scientists globally. The cases have been reported from at least 16 countries, the World Health Organisation had earlier pointed out.
The new cases of BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron sub-variants come as the country has been reporting over 2,000 new Covid cases for a few days now with a spike noticed last week.
This surge in the number of daily reported Covid infections in India has led Saudi Arabia to ban its citizens from travelling to the country.
On Saturday, the Middle Eastern country’s health ministry listed 16 countries, including India, where flights from Saudi Arabia would be banned until further notification.