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Omicron Confirmed in 12 Countries, World Races To Trace It: 10 Updates – dot newz

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Omicron: The variant, first tagged as B.1.1.529, is the latest coronavirus strain to be detected (File)

New Delhi:
The world is racing to decode the genome of the Omicron Covid strain and figure out how far it has spread. At stake are millions of lives and the global economy, which is still recovering from the havoc wrought by the Delta variant.

Here are the top 10 points in this big story:

  1. Data at this time shows Omicron was in circulation well before it was flagged in South Africa last week. The fact cases were reported in Hong Kong, Israel and Belgium within 72 hours of the variant being identified underlines the (unwelcome) news that there may be many more Omicron cases in the world.

  2. Since its detection, the Omicron strain has been reported in a dozen countries, including the United Kingdom and mainland Europe, and Japan. This week Germany confirmed its first cases – travellers from South Africa – and Italy its first – a passenger from Mozambique. The strain may also be present in the Netherlands, where 61 arrivals on two flights from South Africa have tested positive for COVID-19.

  3. The United States, India and China – the three countries worst affected by the entire pandemic – have not yet reported Omicron cases. International airports across India have begun stringent screening and testing of incoming passengers, particularly those from ‘at risk’ countries. A senior doctor at the government-run ICMR, however, told NDTV it is likely Omicron is already present in the country.

  4. Researchers are still working on establishing if Omicron – which seems to be able to evade vaccines better than any other strain – is more lethal and, crucially, if current vaccines offer any protection at all. They are also checking to see if Omicron is more transmissible than Delta, which is already highly infectious. The WHO has suggested this is the case; it said Omicron poses a “very high” global risk.

  5. If Omicron does, in fact, prove to be even more transmissible than Delta, it could lead to a sharp spike in infections that could put pressure on hospitals. And that is bad news for India, where existing medical infrastructure is poor and was barely able to contain damage caused by the Delta variant.

  6. It might not be all doom-and-gloom, though, with anecdotal evidence from doctors in South Africa suggesting Omicron may be more infectious but produces milder symptoms than Delta. Adrian Puren, acting head of South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases, told Reuters it could take four weeks for experts to arrive at a more definitive understanding of vaccine evasion and symptoms.

  7. According to a report by Reuters, most current PCR tests cannot distinguish Omicron from the Delta variant, the dominant and most infectious version of the virus so far. To distinguish between them, the test must identify an Omicron mutation – the S-gene drop-out or S-gene target failure (SGTF). However, this is not a definitive criterion because the Alpha variant also has that mutation. The understanding, though, is that because Alpha is not widely circulating, the presence of the SGTF indicates Omicron.

  8. Existing Covid tests (PCR and rapid), therefore, will still detect Covid infections – as the Indian government told states and UTs this week – but it cannot definitively identify the variant. The WHO has recommended the US-made TaqPath test kit, but it is unclear how many countries have invested in this.

  9. The speed at which virologists and other scientists are working to track, sequence and understand the Omicron strain is in stark contrast to the response to Delta and other variants. The WHO, for example, took months to designate Alpha a ‘variant of concern’ when it emerged in June last year, but only days to identify Omicron as a global threat.

  10. The discovery of the Omicron variant and the initial flurry of travel bans – the UK, the US and other major economies were among the first to suspend flights to and from southern Africa – led to turmoil in global financial and oil markets amid uncertainty over the strain’s capabilities and potential impact.

With input from AFP, Reuters

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Shiv Sena, NCP To Contest Goa Assembly Elections Together – dot newz

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Mumbai:

Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) have decided to contest the upcoming Goa Assembly elections together in alliance, Shiv Sena leader and MP Sanjay Raut said on Sunday.

Speaking to ANI, Raut said, “Shiv Sena and NCP will contest together in Goa assembly elections. There will be a discussion on seat sharing on January 18. NCP’s senior leader Praful Patel will discuss seat-sharing formula in Goa on January 18. Only after that, it will be clear who will contest on how many seats.”

“Political dynamics are different in Maharashtra and Goa. NCP, Shiv Sena, Congress are in alliance in Maharashtra. However, at the moment Congress has decided to contest alone without forming an alliance with any other party in the state,” he said.

Goa elections are set to be held in a single phase on February 14. The counting of votes will be held on March 10.

In view of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, Shiv Sena leader did not comment much on Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s decision to contest from Gorakhpur.

“I will not make any comment on Yogi ji’s decision to contest from Gorakhpur. He has been fielded from his native constituency. So, it is a good thing. I have heard that Aparna Yadav is going to join BJP. It’s good to know,” he said.

Yadav is the daughter in law of Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Meanwhile, elections for the 403 assembly constituencies in Uttar Pradesh will be held in seven phases starting February 10, the Election Commission said. The polling in Uttar Pradesh will be held on February 10, 14, 20, 23, 27 and March 3 and 7 in seven phases.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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“India Feels Proud”: PM Modi On 1 Year Of Vaccination Drive – dot newz

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the vaccination drive added great strength to fight against Covid.

New Delhi:

Lauding India’s COVID-19 vaccination drive as it completes a year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said it has added great strength to the fight against the pandemic and has resulted in saving lives and protecting livelihoods.

When the pandemic first struck, not much was known about the virus. However, our scientists and innovators immersed themselves in developing vaccines, he said. India feels proud that our nation has been able to contribute to fighting the pandemic through vaccines, PM Modi tweeted.

“I salute each and every individual who is associated with the vaccination drive,” he said, adding that the role of our doctors, nurses and healthcare workers is exceptional.

“When we see glimpses of people being vaccinated in remote areas, or our healthcare workers taking the vaccines there, our hearts and minds are filled with pride,” he said.

The prime minister asserted that India’s approach to fighting the pandemic will always remain science based. Health infrastructure is also being augmented to ensure that fellow citizens get proper care, he said, asking people to keep following all COVID-19 related protocols.

The countrywide vaccination drive against COVID-19 on Sunday completed one year, during which over 156.76 crore vaccine doses were administered.

According to Health Ministry officials, over 92 per cent of the adult population have received at least one dose while over 68 per cent have been fully vaccinated. The Centre will issue a postal stamp this afternoon to mark the completion of one year of the inoculation drive.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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“We Invite You”: Maharashtra’s Red Carpet For Elon Musk After Telangana – dot newz

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Elon Musk had said Tesla is “working through” a lot of challenges with the Indian government. (File)

New Delhi:

Another state has now invited US billionaire Elon Musk to invest after he said that electric car pioneer Tesla was “working through” a lot of challenges with the Indian government ahead of long-awaited plans to launch in the country.

After Telangana’s invitation earlier this week, a Maharashtra minister today offered Mr Musk a place to set up Tesla’s manufacturing plant in his state.

Maharashtra Water Resources Minister Jayant Patil, in a reply to Mr Musk’s tweet, said, “Maharashtra is one of the most progressive states in India. We will provide you all the necessary help from Maharashtra for you to get established in India.”

“We invite you to establish your manufacturing plant in Maharashtra,” the Nationalist Congress Party leader added.

Earlier, Telangana minister KT Rama Rao had invited the Tesla Inc’s chief executive to set shop in his state and said that his government will be “happy to partner Tesla in working through the challenges”.

Mr Musk, in response to a tweet asking him about a potential India launch date, had not identified the “challenges” being worked on with the government.

Tesla had plans to begin selling imported cars in India last year and has been lobbying the government to lower import duties, which can be as high as 100 percent, on electric vehicles before it enters the market.

Elon Musk had tweeted last July that Tesla wanted to enter India “but import duties are the highest in the world by far of any large country”.

Even as Tesla is holding out for a cut in import duties, luxury carmaker Mercedes-Benz will start assembling the electric version of its flagship S-Class sedan, the EQS, in India later this year.



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