- We cannot afford to become complacent: Dr Swacminathan
- Make sure we can treat people at home as much as possible: Dr Swaminathan
- Omicron has been reported by almost all states and UTs in India
New Delhi: As the country faces a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, large cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata have reported a combined 75 per cent share of infections of Omicron, the highly transmissible coronavirus variant that was first detected in South Africa, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. NDTV spoke with WHO Chief Scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan to learn about what India needs to do amid the surging cases.
Highlighting that the third wave will see the burden shift from hospitals to the out-patients department and from ICUs (Intensive Care Unit) to home-based care, Dr Swaminathan said that the biggest challenge that India will face will be the sudden need for medical care. She said,
The surge is going to be very fast and many people are going to be sick. People are worried. You may not have symptoms but you would want to talk to a doctor, you would want to see a healthcare worker, and you would want advice. That is what we will have to prepare for.
Dr Swaminathan called for an urgent ramping up of teleconsultation services to tackle the Omicron-fuelled surge.
Maybe, this is the time to really scale up the telehealth and telemedicine services to make sure we have enough doctors and nurses in out-patients’ departments (OPDs); make sure we can treat people at home as much as possible or at primary care isolation centres where they get basic care if they do not need advance care. The whole burden of this outbreak will be more on out-patients and home-based services rather than ICU and hospital beds for severely ill, she said.
Dr Swaminathan also raised concerns about people becoming complacent. She asserted that people are thinking of the variant to be like a common cold and that there is nothing to worry about. She stressed on the dangers of complacency that stems from the general belief that Omicron infections are mild.
We have seen a lot of data coming in; mainly from South Africa and the United Kingdom. What South Africans have shown is that the surge, the number of cases they experienced with the Omicron compared to Delta and other surges was four times more. It is that much more transmissible. The actual number was 40,000 in the previous outbreaks during the peak and it was around 1,40,000 during Omicron. But at the same time, the risk of hospitalisation was one-fourth. So, it evens out – four times more transmissible, one-fourth the risk of hospitalisation, she said.
Dr Swaminathan added that once somebody is in the hospital for whatever reasons – because of comorbidity or they have to be observed – it has been found that the risk of becoming very severely ill, needing critical care and ventilation or in fact dying, was much less with Omicron compared to the other variants. But, the low risk of severe infections and deaths does not mean that the doctors, hospitals, out-patients departments, health care workers, and the infrastructure will not be overwhelmed, she stressed and recommended that governments must prepare for this.
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 population, indigenous 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 (Water, Sanitation 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 pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual 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.[corona_data_new]