New Delhi: “The COVID-19 pandemic is now entering its third year and we are at a critical juncture,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization said on Monday, January 24. Dr Tedros urged countries to work together to bring the acute phase of the pandemic to an end, saying that they now have all the tools available to do so.
We cannot let the pandemic continue to drag on, lurching between panic and neglect.
There are several debates across the globe arguing if the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is ‘less severe’, why are people ending up in the hospital and dying from it? WHO’s Dr Maria Van Kerkhove says that it is very important to reduce transmission as it still remains a dangerous virus.
We do have increasing information that Omicron is less severe than Delta, but it is still a dangerous virus. People who are infected with Omicron have the full spectrum of disease, everything from asymptomatic infection all the way through severe disease and death. What we are learning is that people with underlying conditions, people with advanced age, people who are unvaccinated can have a severe form of COVID-19 following infection from Omicron. And so we know that people are still being hospitalised with this variant of concern, Omicron, as well as dying.
Dr Maria further asserted that Omicron is less severe than Delta, but that does not mean that it is mild. Furthermore, when it comes to the recent reports of experts claiming that due to the high transmissibility of Omicron, eventually everyone might get it, Dr Maria said,
We are certainly seeing with Omicron, that there is a significant growth advantage compared to other variants of concern. Omicron is overtaking Delta in terms of circulation, and it is very efficiently transmitted between people. It doesn’t mean that everybody will eventually get Omicron, but we certainly are seeing high cases and surges of cases around the world.
Dr Maria says that the current spike in COVID-19 cases is putting a significant burden on our health care systems, which are already significantly overburdened given that we’re entering into the third year of this pandemic.
If people can’t receive the proper care that they need, then more people will end up with severe disease and dying, and that’s something we want to prevent. So it doesn’t necessarily mean that everybody will get Omicron, she added.
Dr Maria also highlighted the importance of reducing transmission of Omicron – she says that we don’t understand completely the impact of post-COVID condition or long COVID. So people who are infected with this virus have a risk of developing longer term consequences, which we call post-COVID condition.
There’s a lot to learn about this and your risk of developing post-COVID condition, of course, is dependent on your risk of getting infected in the first place. So you want to prevent that.
She also says that getting infected and having a huge case burden, this surge of cases that we are seeing with Omicron significantly burdens our health systems as well as other essential services that are operating.
The more this virus circulates, the more opportunities it has to change. So this virus is circulating at an incredibly intense level around the world for a number of reasons. Omicron will not be the last variant and the possibility of future emergence of variants of concern is very real. And more variants that emerge, we don’t understand what those the properties of those variants may be. Certainly, they will be more transmissible because they will need to overtake variants that are currently circulating. They could become more or less severe, but they could also have properties of immune escape. So we want to reduce the risk of future emergence of variants of concern, Dr Maria signed off.
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.