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With India having detected 101 cases of the Omicron variant of coronavirus so far, the central government said on Friday that the new strain may outpace Delta. 

“Omicron variant has been reported in 91 countries in the world. WHO has said that Omicron is spreading faster than the Delta variant in South Africa where Delta circulation was low," said Lav Agrawal, the joint secretary of Union health ministry.

“It is likely Omicron will outpace Delta variant where community transmission occurs," Agrawal said, citing the World Health Organisation. 

Further, he informed that 32 cases of the new variant have been reported in Maharashtra, 22 in Delhi, 17 in Rajasthan, 8 each in Karnataka and Telangana, 5 each in Gujarat and Kerala, one each in Andhra Pradesh, Chandigarh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal respectively.

In view of this, Dr Balram Bhargava, the director-general of ICMR, cautioned that all non-essential travel and mass gatherings should be avoided. 

“This is the time to avoid non-essential travel, mass gatherings and it is very important to observe low-intensity festivities," said Bhargava. 

The officials also lauded the country's Covid-19 vaccination drive and said that India is administering Covid-19 vaccine doses at the highest rate in the world and the daily rate of doses administered is 4.8 times the rate of doses administered in the USA and 12.5 times the rate of doses administered in the UK.

The new potentially more contagious B.1.1.529 variant was first reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) from South Africa on 24 November and has been designated as a "Variant of Concern" by the global body.

To deal with this, several countries have imposed travel restrictions and local lockdown.

India has added several countries to the “at-risk" list from where travellers would need to follow additional measures on arrival in the country, including post-arrival testing for infection.

Under the new norms, passengers coming from “at-risk" countries to six major Indian airports have to compulsorily pre-book for the on-arrival RT-PCR test from 20 December onwards.

The six airports are Delhi, Mumbai Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad.

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