Cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus in India rose from 653 to 781 on Wednesday, data from the Union health ministry showed. Cases of the new strain were first reported in the country on December 2 and has now spread to 21 states and Union Territories.

The most number of Omicron infections have been reported from Delhi (238), followed by Maharashtra (167) and Gujarat (73).

Breakup of the Omicron cases in India.

The health ministry stated that 241 out of the 781 people who tested positive for the variant have recovered or migrated.

In all, India reported 9,195 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, taking the country’s tally since the pandemic began last year to 34,808,886. This is 44% higher than Tuesday’s count of 6,358 cases.

The toll increased to 4,80,592 with 302 new fatalities. The country’s active caseload increased by 1,546 in the past 24 hours and stands at 77,002.

A total of 1,43,15,35,641 vaccine doses have been administered in the country till now, with 64,61,321 shots administered in the past 24 hours.

On Tuesday, Mumbai recorded 1,377 cases, a sharp rise from 809 infections reported a day ago.

“It will take another two weeks to confirm the speculation about a third wave,” Dr Shashank Joshi, member of the state Covid-19 task force, told The Indian Express. “But there are some epidemiological factors that are leading to the rise in cases. As the sero prevalence is high in Mumbai, there is a possibility that it is not Delta derivatives but another ‘variant of concern’ present in the crowd.”

Meanwhile, Delhi registered 496 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, up from 331 new cases on Monday. The coronavirus count in the national capital was the highest since June 4, when the city had seen 523 new cases and 50 deaths.

A yellow alert was issued in Delhi on Tuesday and restrictions were imposed under the Graded Response Action Plan. The Delhi Disaster Management Authority ordered closure of schools, colleges, cinemas and gyms with immediate effect and imposed various restrictions on the functioning of shops and public transport.

After Covid-19 case numbers shot up by 11% globally last week, the World Health Organization said that the risk posed by the Omicron variant was still “very high”.

In its Covid-19 weekly epidemiological update, the health agency said that “the rapid growth rate is likely to be a combination of both immune evasion and intrinsic increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant”.

However, the organisation highlighted the 29% decrease in the incidence of cases observed in South Africa, which was the country to have reported the variant in November.