- Omicron variant has become the dominant strain in several metros: INSACOG
- ‘BA.2 lineage, an infectious sub-variant of Omicron, has been detected’
- Schools across Maharashtra reopened on January 24, 2022
New Delhi: The Omicron variant of the coronavirus is in the community transmission stage in the country and has become dominant in several metros where new cases have been spiking exponentially, said Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) in its latest bulletin of January 10 which was released on Sunday (January 23). The INSACOG categorically noted that going forward the spread of Omicron is expected to be internal. The COVID research body said, “Further spread of Omicron in India is now expected to be through internal transmission, not foreign travellers, and a revised sampling and sequencing strategy of INSACOG is being worked out to address genomic surveillance objectives in the wake of dynamic changing scenario of virus infection.”
The centre’s Covid research body also said BA.2 lineage, an infectious sub-variant of Omicron, has been detected in a considerable fraction in India.
The recently reported B.1.640.2 lineage is being monitored. There is no evidence of rapid spread and while it has features of immune escape, it is currently not a variant of concern. So far, no case has been detected in India, the INSACOG said.
While most Omicron cases so far have been asymptomatic or mild, hospitalisations and ICU cases have increased in the current wave and the threat level remains unchanged, INSACOG said.
India is currently witnessing the third wave of COVID-19. The data shows that the third wave has peaked in metro cities like Delhi and Mumbai where after a sharp rise in COVID cases, a decline is being reported. Speaking to NDTV about the same, Dr Hrishikesh Pai, Senior Consultant, Lilavati Hospital in Mumbai said,
A study from IIT Madras has shown that R-rate (reproductive rate) has reduced to 1.57. In the next two weeks, India will also see a peak of the third wave. It is a very good sign. This particular strain of the virus (Omicron) is highly infective but doesn’t result in a high rate of hospital admission and morbidity.
On January 23, the WHO Europe director said that the Omicron variant has moved the COVID-19 pandemic into a new phase and could bring it to an end in Europe. The United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines endemic as “the constant presence and/or usual prevalence of a disease or infectious agent in a population within a geographic area.”
When asked if a similar trend can be seen in India since Omicron is in the community transmission stage, Dr Pai said,
Probably pandemic is on the wane but, we might see smaller peaks in a year or two. We don’t know; the variant may change. We should look at the endpoint – what is happening at a hospital level. We need to shift from looking at absolute numbers to actual admissions which need ICU care or oxygen care.
Third COVID Wave And Children
Schools across India have been shut for almost two years now except for the reopening for a brief period, after the second COVID wave. On Monday (January 24), Maharashtra once again reopened schools. Lauding the state COVID task force for the same, Dr Naveen Thacker, Executive Director, International Paediatric Association said,
School closure in India was the longest. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been arguing that schools should be the last to close and first to open. We should never link the vaccination of children with the reopening of schools. We have to understand that there are many other ways to prevent the spread of infection among children which include masking for children above five years of age, good ventilation at schools, social distancing and a close watch on children, if they show symptoms, isolate them. Also, immunise eligible population and teachers. That’s a key to reopening schools.
Further, when asked about the trends in COVID infection among children, who are said to be more resilient and silent carriers of the virus, Dr Thacker said,
In the third wave, COVID infection is increasing among children because the Omicron variant is highly transmissible but, mostly mild or asymptomatic cases are being reported. Children are neither developing a serious disease nor requiring hospitalisation.
Dr Thacker said that adult to adult transmission of the virus is more likely rather than children to adult transmission. He added,
Children transmit but to a lower extent and for a shorter period of time. Whatever is the variant, children have less viral load than adults.
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.