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NEW DELHI : India reported 422 cases of Omicron, the highly transmissible new strain of the coronavirus, from across 17 states and Union territories since the first case was reported in the first week of December. 

However, over 130 patients have recovered, the Union health ministry said on Sunday. 

Maharashtra has reported so far the maximum number of Omicron cases at 108, followed by Delhi (79), Gujarat (43), Telangana (41), Kerala (38), Tamil Nadu (34), and Karnataka (31). Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh reported their first infections on Sunday. 

With the rising number of cases, states have taken steps to contain the spread. Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj Bommai chaired a review meeting on Sunday and announced the imposition of night curfews from 28 December. “For about 10 days, to begin with, we will watch by calling a night curfew from 10 pm to 5 am," he said. 

Madhya Pradesh has also announced a night curfew from 11 pm to 5 pm. Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said his government would take more measures if needed. 

Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray convened a meeting with the state covid-19 task force to figure out ways to avert crowding during the New Year celebrations and weddings in hotels and restaurants. Along the same lines, the Uttar Pradesh government too capped the number of people allowed at weddings to 200. 

Public health experts cautioned about the fast-spreading Omicron strain. “We are still learning about the new strain. But two things are for sure. One, it is highly contagious, and second, it spreads faster. Reports indicate that majority of cases are milder, which makes people with mild symptoms move around unknowingly infecting others. But the fundamentals of protection remain the same," said Lalit Kant, a scientist and former head of epidemiology and communicable diseases at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). 

“Follow covid-appropriate behaviour. Use of mask, maintain social distancing, avoid crowded and closed spaces, and if not vaccinated, take the shot, and if the second dose is due, take it. Wash your hands frequently. Remember, reports indicate that Omicron is capable of evading the protection offered by vaccines or immunity developed due to prior infection. Vaccines being used in India may prevent severe disease, but perhaps not getting an infection," he added. 

At least 6,987 fresh covid-19 cases were reported in the last 24 hours taking India’s total caseload to 34,786,802. So far, 479,682 have died, with 162 deaths in the last 24 hours, according to health ministry data. The daily rise in covid-19 cases remained below 15,000 for the last 59 days. 

The number of active covid-19 cases declined to 76,766, accounting for 0.22% of total infections, the lowest since March 2020, the ministry said. The national recovery rate was at 98.40%, the highest since March 2020, while the daily positivity rate was at 0.74%. It has remained below 2% for the last 83 days, the government said. The weekly positivity rate, at 0.62%, remained below 1% for the last 42 days. So far, 1.42 billion vaccine doses have been administered, it added.

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