Fri, 19 Aug 2022

New Delhi [India], November 30 (ANI): With World Health Organisation (WHO) stating that overall global risk related to the new COVID variant Omicron is assessed as very high and may change the pandemic course, health experts in India reiterated not to loosen up the guards as the situation still lies uncertain.

Health experts also suggested that given India's population, extreme surveillance and strictest border control with an immediate effect should be imposed.

Dr Neetu Jain, senior consultant Pulmonology, PSRI Hospital while speaking to ANI told, "if Omicron reaches India, the way there is non-compliance to COVID-19 behaviour, it will take no time for the new variant to spread. It is said that Omicron may possibly be 500 times more infectious than Delta, which in itself was 60 times more infectious than Alpha. So the chance of infection is way too high."It has been already stated that a total of 50 plus mutations are already existing, and the variant is building on existing mutations, 32 on spike protein.

With questions arising related to vaccine's efficacy against Omicron (B.1.1.529), the expert is of the view that "vaccine efficiency may drop significantly given the 32 spike protein mutations. We may need to reconsider the vaccine policy. Thus while we wait and watch, it is best we impose the strictest border control. "With the emergency of the new COVID-19 variant 'Omicron', COVID-19 task force chairman Dr NK Arora said that a comprehensive policy on the booster and additional doses of COVID-19 vaccine will be announced in two weeks.

Citing the serious public health implications that may come up, Union Health Ministry has issued revised guidelines for international travellers. Levelling up the precaution measures directs states to undertake rigorous screening and testing.

Dr Vivek Anand Padegal, Director, Pulmonology, Fortis Hospitals, Bengaluru stated, "We need to be continuously vigilant. Travel restrictions and active surveillance of travellers will need to be considered but we need to continue following strict COVID-19 protocols - the basics masks, social distancing and hand hygiene. It is crucial to continue to vaccinate and consider boosters seriously."The doctor added, "previous variants after Delta-like MU have not been as bad as feared and time will tell if this is a variant to be concerned about. It's concerning that there has been somewhat of a surge in South Africa in the last 10 days."The Omicron variant (B.1.1.529), a new variant of the COVID-19, was first reported in Botswana on November 11, 2021, and appeared on November 14 in South Africa. It has been declared a variant of concern by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa. (ANI)

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