- Dr Tickoo from Max called for increased survelliance, genome sequencing
- Vaccination is the key, it prevents severe disease: Dr Tickoo
- Omicron is infective but mild: Dr Ravindra Mehta, Apollo Hospitals
New Delhi: Over 70 countries have reported cases of Omicron, the new variant of COVID-19, which has been designated as a variant of concern by the World Health Organisation. “The reality is that Omicron is probably in most countries, even if it hasn’t been detected yet. Omicron is spreading at a rate we have not seen with any previous variant. We’re concerned that people are dismissing Omicron as mild. Surely, we have learned by now that we underestimate this virus at our peril”, said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s Director General during a media briefing on December 14.
As of December 15, 68 cases of Omicron variant (B.1.1.529) have been reported in India as well. With rising cases, there are also doubts and to clear those doubts, we spoke to Dr Rommel Tickoo, Director, Internal Medicine, Max Healthcare and Dr Ravindra Mehta, Chief of Critical care, Apollo Hospital, Bangalore.
There is something to worry. We have to be proactive: Dr Tickoo
When asked about the COVID-19 situation in India and steps needed to contain the spread and a second wave like situation, Dr Tickoo said, it’s worrisome because the virus can be devastating as seen during the second wave in India. He added,
The way it (Omicron variant) is spreading, it is almost becoming the dominant strain in the UK and even in other parts of the world so there is something to worry about. Just because we have minimal cases right now doesn’t mean that we have to get complacent. We have to be proactive, increase our surveillance, have restrictions in place and importantly, genomic sequencing has to be done.
Dr Tickoo also recommended keeping a track of international travelers, especially those who are turning out to be positive and their contacts. He also called for public participation to contain the spread.
More infections but milder: Dr Mehta
When asked about the silver lining with regard to the Omicron variant, Dr Mehta said,
It seems to be milder than what was anticipated. If you look at the construct, they talked of 30 plus mutations in an important part of the COVID virus genome. So, we thought, nothing is going to work against it because it’s a new COVID-19, maybe we should call it COVID-21. But the clinical data from the ground shows it is infective but mild.
Vaccines might not be effective: Dr Tickoo
With the emergence of the new variant, one of the common worries is that whether or not the existing vaccines will be effective against Omicron. Dr VK Paul, Member-Health, NITI Aayog, at CII Partnership Summit had said,
There is a potential scenario that our vaccines may become ineffective in emerging situations.
Talking about the same, Dr Tickoo said we don’t have enough data to say that and added,
But there seems to be some sort of data which says that yes, vaccines might not be that effective against this particular variant. But mind you, vaccines don’t prevent you from getting the infection. It prevents a severe disease and the need for hospitalisation. It still gives you some sort of protection. Vaccination is the key.
Lockdowns don’t seem to be helping: Dr Mehta
When the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hit India, the government was quick to announce a series of lockdowns. Now with Omicron, is lockdown the way forward? The experts said ‘no’. Explaining the role of lockdowns, Dr Mehta said,
Based on the data and track record, lockdowns don’t seem to be helping a lot. The only role left of a lockdown is to stem the tide and allow your infrastructure and healthcare to be prepared if the speed of the spread of the virus is more than you have prepared for. Having said that, we should be much better prepared right now.
Resonating with Dr Mehta, Dr Tickoo also rejected the idea of a lockdown as a solution. He believes, multiple lockdowns served their purpose in the past and currently, the focus needs to be on infrastructure – getting hospital beds, oxygen supplies, drugs and vaccination.
No particular age group at more risk: Dr Mehta
Dr Mehta said that currently, there are no findings to suggest that the Omicron variant is more dangerous for a particular age group.
Double masking is the way to go: Dr Tickoo
Stressing on the basic COVID precaution – masking – Dr Tickoo said, masking is crucial and double masking gives you another level of protection so double masking is a way to go. He said,
Follow all other protocols that the government has laid in place because that’s the only way. Be very aggressive with your vaccination. If you haven’t been vaccinated till now, go for it as it is the only thing that protects you from getting a severe disease.
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.