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COVID-19: Government Answers Common Questions On Omicron Variant Of Coronavirus

Union Health Ministry has answered some of the FAQs on Omicron, the new COVID-19 variant

COVID-19: Government Answers Common Questions On Omicron Variant Of Coronavirus
Omicron, the new COVID-19 variant was first found in South Africa
  • WHO classified Omicron as a variant of concern on November 26
  • Omicron has shown a very large number of mutations: Centre
  • People should take both doses of the vaccines: Centre

New Delhi: On November 24, a new variant of coronavirus B.1.1.529 also known as the Omicron variant was reported by researchers in South Africa. Only two days later, on November 26, the variant, which is considered to be very infectious, was designated a ‘variant of concern’ (VoC) by the World Health Organisation (WHO). In India also some cases of Omicron variant have been detected, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW). In the wake of the new variant of, the alarm that it has been causing among people and the fear of the third wave, here are some of the frequently asked questions answered by MoFHW:

The Union Health Ministry has said that Omicron cases are increasingly being reported from countries outside of South Africa and given its characteristics, it is likely to spread to more countries including India.

However, the scale and magnitude of the rise in cases and most importantly the severity of disease that will be caused is still not clear, MoHFW said.

It further said that given the fast pace of vaccination in India and high exposure to Delta variant as evidenced by high seropositivity, the severity of the disease is anticipated to be low. However, scientific evidence is still evolving, it added.

Also Read: Toxic Mix Of Low COVID-19 Vaccination And Testing A Recipe For Amplifying Variants: WHO Chief

Will The Existing Vaccines Work Against Omicron?

The health ministry has said that while there is no evidence to suggest that existing vaccines do not work on Omicron, some of the mutations reported on Spike gene may decrease the efficacy of existing vaccines.

However, vaccine protection is also by antibodies as well as by cellular immunity, which is expected to be relatively better preserved. Hence vaccines are expected to still offer protection against severe disease, and vaccination with the available vaccines is crucial. If eligible, but not vaccinated, one should get vaccinated, it has said.

How Concerned Should We Be About Omicron?

The health ministry has said that it is important to highlight that Omicron has been declared VoC based on the observed mutations, their predicted features of increased transmission and immune evasion, and preliminary evidence of detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology, such as increased reinfections.

The definitive evidence for increased transmission and immune evasion is awaited, it has said.

What Precautions Have Been Recommended By The Health Ministry?

The health ministry has said that it is essential to mask oneself properly, take both doses of vaccines if not yet vaccinated, maintain social distancing and maintain good ventilation to the maximum possible.

Can The Currently Used Diagnostics Methods Detect Omicron?

According to the health ministry, RT-PCR tests detect specific genes in the virus, such as Spike (S), Enveloped (E), and Nucleocapsid (N) to confirm the presence of the virus.

However, in the case of Omicron, as the S gene is heavily mutated, some of the primers may lead to results indicating the absence of the S gene (called as S gene drop out), it has said.

The health ministry said that this particular S gene drop out along with the detection of other viral genes could be used as a diagnostic feature of Omicron.

However, for final confirmation of the Omicron variant genomic sequencing is required, MoHFW said.

Also Read: Genome Sequencing Can Confirm Presence Of COVID-19 Variant Omicron: Expert

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity,  that is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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