India on Saturday morning reported 22,775 new coronavirus cases, taking the total tally since the pandemic began in 2020 to 3,48,61,579, data from the health ministry showed. This is 35% higher than Friday’s count of 16,764 cases.
The toll rose to 4,81,486 after 406 deaths were reported over the last 24 hours. India’s active caseload rose to 1,04,781.
The most Omicron infections have been reported from Maharashtra (454), followed by Delhi (351) and Tamil Nadu (118). Gujarat has 115 cases and Kerala is the fifth worst-affected state with 109 infections.
The health ministry said that 488 out of the 1,431 people who tested positive for the new variant have recovered or migrated.
As the country grapples with the prospect of another Covid wave, fuelled by the Omicron variant this time, children between 15-18 years can register for vaccination on the CoWIN portal from Saturday.
“I request the family members to register the eligible children for vaccination,” Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said in a tweet.
On New Year’s Eve, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Delhi reported a sharp jump in daily infections.
Maharashtra reported 8,067 new Covid-19 cases on Friday, which constituted a rise of 50.27% from Thursday’s figure of 5,368 infections. State capital Mumbai contributed 5,428 new cases, according to government data. But, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation said Mumbai added 5,631 infections.
The difference in figures is because of delay on part of the civic body to upload data on the centralised Covid-19 server.
Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar on Saturday said that more restrictions would be imposed if cases continue to rise, PTI reported.
“We cut short the Assembly session recently,” he told reporters in Pune. “So far, over 10 ministers and over 20 MLAs have tested positive for coronavirus. Everybody wants to be part of the celebrations of New Year, birthdays and other occasions. Keep in mind that the new variant spreads fast and hence caution is needed.”
Dr Shashank Joshi, a member of Maharashtra Covid task force, told The Indian Express that surge of infections in the state was expected. “The same trend has been observed across the globe,” he added. “In South Africa, within a week, Omicron dominated over the Delta variants. This will further spread across the state. But considering the less severity observed among patients, it can be a silver lining.”
Meanwhile, West Bengal recorded 3,451 infections on Friday, taking the total count to 16,38,485, PTI reported. Kolkata alone contributed 1,954 or 56% of these cases.
Mayor Firhad Hakim said the Kolkata Municipal Corporation will mark out 17 containment zones in different parts of the city.
Delhi, on the other hand, reported 1,796 coronavirus cases – the highest single-day rise since May 22. The positivity rate jumped to 2.44%. No deaths were recorded on Friday.
On Thursday, the city recorded 1,313 cases with a positivity rate of 1.73%. The daily cases count had breached the 1,000-mark after a gap of seven months.
Amid the surging cases, World Health Organization’s Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan on Friday said teleconsultation services must be ramped up to tackle the current wave driven by Omicron, NDTV reported.
“People are worried,” she said. “You may not have symptoms but you would want to talk to a doctor, you’d want to see a healthcare worker, and you’d want advice. That’s what we will have to prepare for.” Swaminathan said that it was time to “really scale up the telehealth and telemedicine services to make sure we have enough doctors and nurses in out-patients’ clinics.”
The global health body’s chief scientist also warned that many people will be unwell this time.
“We have seen a lot of data coming in; mainly from South Africa and the UK,” Swaminathan said. “What South Africans have shown is that the surge, the number of cases they experienced with the Omicron compared to Delta and other surges was four times more. It is that much more transmissible.”