Spread of Omicron

THAT the third Covid wave has largely been driven by the new virus mutant Omicron has become clear by the latest round of genome sequencing carried out at a hospital in Mumbai which has found the Omicron variant of Covid-19 in 88 percent of the samples. Though severity is less than earlier virus mutants including that of the Delta variant, Omicron is highly transmissible. And this is apparent in Kashmir too, where the third wave has spread like a wildfire. The official figure of cases hardly reflects the reality as a large section of the population is down with Covid-like symptoms. And this section is treating itself without testing for Covid. The same could be the case in other parts of the country. So, in actual terms, the number of Covid infections could be much higher than the official figure in the country.

This is one more proof that Covid-19 may be heading towards endemicity in India, The noted vaccinologist Dr Gangandeep Kang has already said this. The endemic stage is when a population learns to live with a virus. It is therefore very different from the epidemic stage. This means we have reached a point where the disease will be very much present in society like other ailments.

So, in a sense, Covid is going nowhere and may surface again as an epidemic if we don’t observe precautions.  It also means that it may not be possible to eliminate the virus in the near to medium term. Strains like Delta and now Omicron are several times more infectious and also a tad resistant to vaccination.

More than two years after the coronavirus first surfaced in China’s Wuhan, the world remains far from getting a grip on it. In the process, the virus has wrought havoc on the global economy. In the first quarter of 2020, India’s GDP declined by one-fourth. It is only now that some recovery is underway.  But to keep up the progress, the world needs to act in concert to ensure there is no further surge in cases of infections. This calls for governments around the world to stay alert. There is a greater need for collaboration on vaccination and also strict observance and enforcement of Standard Operating Procedures.

One thing about Omicron is that while it has triggered intense flare-ups, there have been less hospitalizations and deaths. In that sense, the mutant is less virulent than earlier version. Here’s hoping that Omicron spread doesn’t lead to the emergence of yet another deadly variant.

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