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Cases plateauing in parts of India but Omicron still surges

NEW DELHI (AP) – Indian health officials said on Thursday there were signs of COVID-19 infections plateauing in some parts of the country but cautioned that cases were still surging in other states, linked to a new, stealthier version of the Omicron variant.

Most of the cases were concentrated in 10 states, where over 90 per cent of patients had mild symptoms and were being treated at home, a federal health official Lav Agarwal, said at a media briefing.

The rate of infection in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi in the north, Maharashtra on the western coast, and West Bengal, Odisha in the east has begun dipping, he said. However, cases are still rising in the southern states of Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu along with Gujarat and Rajasthan in the northwest.

“Early indication of a plateau in cases are being reported in certain geographies,” said Agarwal.

He said that the number of people who needed oxygen support or had to be hospitalised during the current surge was lower than in the one fuelled by the Delta variant last year, which capsized India’s public health system. There are only a few states in India where the Delta variant is still circulating.

Genetic sequencing indicates that the initial spike in cases in December was powered by an early version of the Omicron variant. But most new cases are now linked to a different version called BA.2 – a stealthier version of the Omicron, which some scientists worry may also be more transmissible.

The dip in cases has prompted some local authorities to relax restrictions. In New Delhi, restaurants, and movie theatres can now run at half capacity.

An elderly receives Covid-19 vaccination at a makeshift centre in a government school in New Delhi. PHOTO: AP