Omicron Challenge

WITH World Health Organization classing new coronavirus variant “of concern” and naming it Omicron, prime minister Narendra Modi on Saturday called for a proactive strategy to prevent its spread to India. He directed officials to review plans for easing of international travel restrictions. The PM said travelers must be tested on arrival as per guidelines and called for a particular focus on countries identified “at risk”. He laid emphasis on increasing coverage of the second dose of the vaccine so that adequate immunity is achieved against the fresh infections. The PM also urged people to adopt masking and social distancing to prevent the infection from spreading. In a two-hourlong meeting with senior officials, the PM was briefed about  Omicron, its characteristics and implications for India.

With the country having already lived through the harrowing second Covid wave which killed thousands of people, the union government cannot afford to take any chances.  Because of the widespread vaccination, the country has survived the apprehended third Covid wave.  The PM has rightly called for more intensive containment and active surveillance in clusters reporting higher cases and that technical support for the states with more infections. The situation, this time, can’t be taken lightly. World economy has been already battered by the pandemic over the last one and a half years. A fresh global outbreak of the infections could paralyze the world again and occasion the need for more lockdowns. This could once again setback the economy, threatening the livelihoods of  an uncounted number of people.

So, India needs to get its act right. At the same time the world has to work together to stamp out what is otherwise an abating pandemic. Recently, addressing the first session of the G20 summit in Rome, “Global economy and global health”,  Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about the need for a collaborative approach to fight the COVID-19 pandemic covering scientific communities and governments.

Over the last two years, the world has certainly acted in concert in so far as the vaccination is concerned which has brought the pandemic under control. That said, the governments in the different countries have to stick to complementing the vaccination with the upgrading of healthcare and strict enforcement of adherence to SOPs in public.  In India, this is more critical in view of the emergence of new Omicron strain. This alone will help stave off more outbreaks in various parts of the country which, if unchecked, could create conditions for a third wave.

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