New Delhi: Unless India sees four weeks of low and stable numbers of COVID-19 cases with only minor fluctuations, the disease cannot be considered to be entering the endemic stage, noted virologist Dr T Jacob John said. He also said the endemic phase of COVID-19 is expected to last many months and it is ” most unlikely” that another variant with higher transmissibility than Omicron and greater virulence than Delta will emerge. The third wave of COVID-19 in India has been plateauing. The number of cases started declining after January 21, when 3,47,254 infections were reported.
As of Tuesday, India’s daily COVID-19 cases have remained below one lakh for nine consecutive days.
Mr John said the term endemic is meant to qualify a pattern.
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When case numbers in a community are plotted on graphs, the pattern of rise, peak and fall represent epidemic (or outbreak) and case numbers as a horizontal steady state are called endemic. When an epidemic pattern repeats, we call each a wave. So unless we see four weeks of low and stable numbers with only minor fluctuations, we cannot call the valley as endemic just as yet, Mr John told PTI. Omicron wave is receding so fast that in a few more days we may reach the valley, but we will wait for four weeks to be sure of endemic prevalence, he said.
Asked what can be expected in the coming months, the former director of the Indian Council for Medical Research’s Centre of Advanced Research in Virology said it cannot be predicted, but only speculated.
My intelligent guess: we will slip into an endemic phase for many months without any more waves with Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta or Omicron. It will be most unlikely that yet another variant that will spread faster than Omicron and more efficient in immune evasion that Delta or Omicron will emerge, Mr John said. However, just as Omicron surprised us, another weird variant could surprise us yet again, he warned.
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He also said that during the endemic phase, some will be infected, sick, hospitalised and even die.
That point onwards, people would have to adapt to the new way of living with the virus depending upon their level of risk. But because of COVID-19 nothing should be stopped, Mr Lahariya told PTI.
To facilitate a smooth transition, he said, there is a need to start a socio-political discourse on what is normal and how to ensure maximum safety.
This would mean improved ventilation in closed spaces, additional protection for high-risk populations, phasing out of the mask mandate — first for children and then for adults. Unless this societal discourse is started, things would be delayed, he added.
Mr Lahariya said pandemics end with a socio-political consensus to arrive at an agreement of what a society would like to call endemic.
What is important to remember is that pandemics start with a pathogen. In this case, due to the virus. They end with a socio-political consensus to arrive at an agreement of what a society would like to call endemic. Therefore, when a setting reaches endemicity is not going to be a binary of pandemic or endemic, he said.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the 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, which 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.