Pre-empting Omicron

OMICRON fears are getting real by the day. On Monday, India's crashed with sensex shedding 1300 points and the Nifty over 800 points. This was the lowest the stock exchange plunged over the last two years. Life is certainly going to get tougher if the people don't follow SOPs and the infection spreads. On the other hand, making the situation further grave is that a growing body of preliminary research has suggested that the COVID vaccines used in most of the world offer almost no defense against the highly contagious omicron. Only the Pfizer and Moderna shots, when reinforced by a booster, have been found to have some success at stopping infections. But these vaccines are not available in most of the world. India, so far, has only locally produced Covishield and Covaxin which have mercifully proved effective against the coronavirus including the delta variant.This helped the country stave off the otherwise expected third wave. But Omicron poses a fresh challenge. With Covishield and Covaxin seen as unlikely as a defense against the new variant which was first detected in South Africa, there is an urgent need to ensure that the country is prepared for any eventuality.

As of now, there is no guarantee that the Covid-19 pandemic could be reigned in anytime soon. The only way to pre-empt a fresh outbreak, the government needs to upgrade healthcare, enforce strict adherence to SOPs in public and keep running an advertisement blitz to create more awareness about the contagion and it's latest variant. The coming few months are crucial. If the government is able to keep the daily caseload of Omicron infections low and ensures it tapers off, it would have more or less won the war against coronavirus. For now, however, there is no room for complacency. The government and for that matter, even the people can’t afford to let their guard down.

One thing that the government can't afford to do is to go for yet another lockdown. Last year, the extended lockdown dented the GDP by one-fourth in the first quarter. In Kashmir Valley which was already under a prolonged lockdown following the revocation of Article 370 in August 2019, was hit the hardest. The economy went into a tailspin. Thousands lost their jobs and its aftereffects are still playing out. So, the union government has to take pro-active measures to forestall a massive outbreak which could once again freeze the economy. The government has already extended the ban on international travel. But it is also true that on ground the precautions aren't followed properly and this could be a trigger for fresh outbreaks. So, it is time that the central and state governments get serious about getting people to adhere to pandemic protocol in public to meet the latest challenge.

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