Efficient surveillance key to check COVID pandemic: TIGS director

Efficient surveillance that includes more testing and sewage surveillance is the key to control the current COVID situation. Testing those with obvious COVID symptoms and random testing in offices, educational institutions and gatherings should be stepped up for quickly identifying COVID positive patients and isolating them to arrest the virus spread, said Tata Institute for Genetics & Society (TIGS) director and scientist Rakesh Mishra.

Sewage surveillance

Governments should also invest in sewage surveillance, which is pretty effective, unbiased and inexpensive, and can give an early indication of any surge in cases 5-6 days in advance for the authorities concerned to act and take precautionary measures, he said on Friday.

The former CSIR-Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology (CCMB) director, involved in genome sequencing and testing protocols from the time the pandemic broke in March 2020 and who continues to work in the institute here, cautioned that the “SARS-CoV-2 virus is still around and there is no reason to become complacent even as many activities have resumed”.

While studies and research so far have been mostly confined to major cities, population in the towns and villages as well as unvaccinated people, including children, continue to be vulnerable. Hence, COVID appropriate behaviour cannot be wished away, he insisted.

“Masks should be made mandatory by the governments. We cannot keep restaurants or cinemas indefinitely shut, so we should ensure the staff is fully vaccinated and masked. Still, there is an element of risk once you remove the mask in such places or in public transport,” affirmed Dr. Mishra.

The pace of vaccination in the country has been decent and the focus should continue to rapidly fully vaccinate the remaining population and ensure the second dose for those who had already taken the first dose.

Booster dose

“We can think of a third or booster dose for the vulnerable sections after maximum coverage through vaccination. Vaccines are good and working well. But, they are not a guarantee of not getting infected. However, there are less chances of falling sick and mostly it could be mild. It could become serious for the aged and immuno-compromised, so we cannot take any chances,” he said.

Antibodies’ presence is known to decline due to various factors over passage of time despite vaccination, but, the body has cellular immunity to give protection, hence there is no need to be alarmed on this count, he asserted. “We cannot afford to relax as we have not reached the finish line. With a little more discipline and caution for a few more months, we can get over this pandemic, without much pain,” Dr. Mishra added.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2022 11:43:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/efficient-surveillance-key-to-check-covid-pandemic-tigs-director/article37705281.ece

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