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Some Countries May See Another Wave Of COVID-19 Infection Due To XBB Subvariant, Says WHO Chief Scientist

Dr Soumya Swaminathan said that there was no data from any country to suggest that these new variants are clinically more severe

Some Countries May See Another Wave Of COVID-19 Infection Due To XBB Subvariant, Says WHO Chief Scientist
Dr Swaminathan said that a number of deaths from elderly groups were seen when Omicron spread as they were not fully vaccinated.

Pune: Chief scientist at the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Soumya Swaminathan, on Thursday said some countries may see “another wave of infections” with the XBB subvariant of Omicron, a variant of COVID-19 virus. Talking to reporters on the sidelines of the annual general meeting of the Developing Countries Vaccine Manufacturers Network (DCVMN) here, she clarified that as of now, there was no data from any country to suggest that these new variants are clinically more severe.

There are over 300 subvariants of Omicron. I think the one that is concerning right now is XBB, which is a recombinant virus. We had seen some recombinant viruses earlier. It is very immune-evasive, which means it can overcome the antibodies. So slightly that we may see another wave of infections in some countries because of XBB, she said.

Also Read: Wearing Masks, Covid-Appropriate Behaviour To Continue In Country: Official Sources

Dr. Swaminathan said they are also tracking derivatives of BA.5 and BA.1, which are also more transmissible and immune-evasive. As the virus evolves, it is going to evolve more and more transmissible, she said.

As of now, there is no data from any country to suggest these new subvariants are more clinically severe, she clarified.

Suggesting the measures that need to be taken, Dr Swaminathan said monitoring and tracking are the key steps.

We need to continue to monitor and track. We have seen that testing has gone down across countries, the genomic surveillance has also gone down over the last few months. We need to maintain at least a strategic sampling of genomic surveillance so that we can keep tracking the variants as we have been doing and studying, she said.

Also Read: WHO Chief Scientist On Banega Swasth India Telethon: Key Learnings From COVID-19 Pandemic

According to her, the Director General of the WHO has said that COVID-19 continues to be a public health emergency of international concern. She added that 8,000 to 9,000 deaths are being reported every week worldwide due to the infection.

So we have not said that the pandemic is over, which means that all precautions and tools continued to be used. Good thing is that we have now many tools and the most important thing is vaccines. As far as vaccine coverage is concerned, our goals are 100 per cent of people over the age of 60 and 100 per cent of health care and frontline workers. Then we have a goal of achieving 70 per cent of the country, but subgroups are more important because they are most likely to face morbidity and mortality, she said.

She said that a number of deaths from elderly groups were seen when Omicron spread as they were not fully vaccinated.

The full vaccination schedule is actually three doses. The primary two doses plus booster in the next four to six months. But in many countries, including India, the uptake of the booster is low. So we really encourage people to take the third dose, she said.

She advised continuing to use masks for protection from infection.

While vaccines are still protecting us from severe disease and hospitalization, the risk of long COVID conditions seems to increase with each infection. So it is not benign. We should not be too casual by saying that it is okay to get the infection. Many people just think that it is just like the flu or any other respiratory infection, but more and more data is coming out on how COVID is affecting all organ systems and not just the respiratory route. It also affects the cardiovascular system and the inflammatory environment. So we have seen the risk of diabetes doubling, we have seen the risk of heart attacks…and other neurocognitive problems, Dr Swaminathan added.

Also Read: Children With Immunodeficiency At Higher Risk Of Serious COVID-19: Study

(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 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, 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 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 diarrhoea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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