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Risk Persists Even Though COVID-19 Cases Starting To Plateau In Parts Of India: WHO

Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region said India is still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and the focus should be to curtail the virus spread and save lives

Risk Persists Even Though COVID-19 Cases Starting To Plateau In Parts Of India: WHO
WHO official said becoming endemic doesn't mean the coronavirus will not be a cause of concern
  • Our focus must be on reducing transmission: Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO
  • We think that vaccines are less effective against Omicron infection: Dr Sin
  • Having a booster shot seems to increase protection: Dr Singh, WHO

New Delhi: Even though some cities or states in India may be beginning to see plateauing of COVID-19 cases, the risk persists and focus must be on reducing transmission and implementing situation-specific measures, senior WHO official Poonam Khetrapal Singh said. The Health Ministry said on Thursday (January 27) that early indications of Covid cases plateauing have been reported in certain geographies in the country but the trend needs to be observed.

Also Read: COVID-19 Explained: 10 Things We Know About BA.2 Sub-Variant Of Omicron

Responding to a question that coronavirus cases have started plateauing in India, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region said the risk of COVID-19 remains high and no country, irrespective of their current transmission scenario, is “out of the woods” yet.

Hence, even though some cities or states may be beginning to see plateauing of cases, the risk persists. We need to continue to remain vigilant. Our focus must be on reducing transmission. Implementing situation-specific public health and social measures and increasing vaccine coverage – that’s the way forward for all countries in the ongoing pandemic, Dr Singh told PTI in an interview.

On January 21, the country reported a total of 3,47,254 new COVID-19 cases after which the daily infection count has been reducing. A decline in Covid cases and positivity rate has been especially observed in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Odisha, Haryana and West Bengal.

Asked if the pandemic is entering in endemic stages, Singh said, currently “we are still in the midst of the pandemic and the focus should be to curtail the virus spread and save lives”.

By becoming endemic doesn’t mean that the virus will not be a cause of concern, she said.

Also Read: COVID-19 And Omicron: About Time You Break Up With A Cloth Mask? Here’s What Experts Have To Say

Compared to the COVID-19’s Delta variant, she said Omicron is able to more rapidly infect the tissues of the upper respiratory tract rather than the lungs, which may also help the spread of this variant.

There appears to be a lower risk of severe disease and death following Omicron infection as compared to other variants. However, due to the very high numbers of cases, many countries have seen a significant increase in the incidence of hospitalization, putting pressure on healthcare systems, she said.

Data suggests that infection with Omicron may be associated with a lower risk of hospitalization compared to infection with Delta, Singh said, but noted that the severity of illness increases with age and in the presence of underlying medical conditions and among people who are not vaccinated.

She stressed on the need to rapidly accelerate efforts to vaccinate all at-risk populations in all countries.

There is growing evidence on vaccine effectiveness for Omicron, but we still have a lot to learn. So far, we think that vaccines are less effective against Omicron infection and symptomatic disease compared to Delta. Having a booster shot seems to increase protection, she said.

Also Read: Dangerous To Assume Omicron Will Be The Last Variant; We Can End The Acute Phase Of COVID-19 This Year: WHO Chief

However, vaccines still seem to remain highly effective at protecting people against serious illness, hospitalization, and death, she said, adding that vaccines remain an effective method to reduce the likelihood of severe disease caused by the Omicron variant.

Dr Singh said the emergence of Omicron means that the protective behaviours remain critical such as keeping a safe distance from others, avoiding crowds, wearing a well-fitted mask covering mouth and nose, cleaning hands regularly, keeping indoor spaces well ventilated, and covering coughs and sneezes.

India is presently battling the third wave of COVID-19 driven by the Omicron variant. On Saturday, 2,35,532 people tested positive for the coronavirus infection.

Also Read: Here’s Why WHO Experts Are Worried About Omicron Variant of COVID-19

(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 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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