Mutating Pandemic

THE World Health Organization has said the number of COVID-19 cases recorded worldwide increased by 11 percent last week compared with the previous week, revealing the steady rise in infections despite the world’s best efforts to contain. One reason is the higher transmissibility of the virus than the Delta which preceded it. So far the largest spread has been in the Americas. In India, till Wednesday morning, 781 cases of the Omicron variant were recorded. Regular Covid infections also continue to take place, with numbers in Mumbai soaring over 4 percent.  However, overall the infections are abating.

But the threat from Covid19 is far from over. There is every possibility that the world could face fresh waves of mass infections prompting renewed lockdown which then cripple the economy. The UN health agency said in its last weekly epidemiological report said there were nearly 4.99 million newly reported cases around the world from December 20-26.

Omicron is believed to be deadlier than the previous strains including the Delta. Even though, the countries are putting strick checks in place for the fresh visitors, some infected persons are slipping through the checks. There is, thus, fear that the new strain would be difficult to contain despite the restrictions.

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 parts 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.

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. 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 pre-empt more outbreaks in various parts of the country which, if unchecked, could create conditions for a third wave.

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