‘Possible to avert third wave, even end pandemic’

We can not only avert a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also put an end to it by the end of the year if we adhere to face masks, ensure there is no clustering of people in closed spaces, increase the pace of vaccination besides taking up large scale testing, tracing and isolation of positive cases, said former director of CSIR-Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology (CCMB) and now adviser Rakesh Mishra on Wednesday.

“No variant can spread without people’s cooperation. It cannot break through a properly worn mask covering the nose and mouth. It is uncivil not to wear a mask in public as you may spread the virus to your own family and friends. No one predict the third wave but we can tilt this in our favour if we can do these things,” he asserted.

Making a presentation on ‘COVID variants & the pandemic’ in a webinar organised by The National Academy of Sciences-India: Hyderabad chapter, he said there could be a need for a booster vaccine dose and that there was a greater likelihood of virus outbreaks in smaller towns and not on a nationwide scale in future.

“There could be a significant number of sero-positive people. However, we do not know how long this will last so we need to adhere to the social vaccine of physical distancing, masks and hand washing along with vaccination. There are no black and white solutions,” affirmed Dr. Mishra.

Delta variant enveloped the entire country within six months from January 2021, and research showed that it has a viral load 1,000 times higher among the infected persons when compared to the original coronavirus strain with the incubation period shortened to four days.

“Vaccination is more important than ever in view of the Delta variant as the collaborative research with AIG Hospitals had showed disease severity to be significantly low among vaccinated people despite co-morbidities and higher age. Two doses (both Covaxin and Covishield are effective) lower the mortality rate by 50%,” said the top scientist.

While the outdoors is largely free of virus, airborne transmission of virus through an infected person is not detected when properly masked but rooms with poor ventilation showed presence of viral particles even two hours after the infected person exited upon spending considerable time inside. Infection possibility is also high when an infected person nearby is speaking on the phone, he said.

With offices and possibly educational institutions opening up, Dr. Mishra has called for mandatory face masks, cross ventilation, use of germicidal UV lamps in AC units or near ceilings, conducting gatherings in open and well-ventilated spaces, eating in isolation and in open spaces. Regular screening helps in identifying asymptomatic COVID-19 carriers and isolate them timely.

Formation of national genome sequencing consortium or INSACOG has helped scale up the exercise of sequencing up to 50,000 samples and identify the Kappa and Delta variants when compared to just 8,000 samples done through individual efforts by various labs last year, said director of CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology Anurag Agrawal.

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Printable version | Sep 21, 2021 2:56:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/possible-to-avert-third-wave-even-end-pandemic/article35590862.ece

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