Extreme caution, warns Kolkata doctor as Bengal records 1st Omicron case

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A Kolkata doctor, who has been highly vocal in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic has called for “extreme caution” after West Bengal reported its first Omicron case on Wednesday.

“After several States reported Omicron cases, West Bengal also reported the first case of this COVID-19 variant of concern. Conclusive scientific evidences are yet to emerge regarding its virulence, transmissibility, severity of illness and clinical outcome, even though initial reports suggest that although transmissibility is higher compared to other variants, the severity of illness is low. However, in the light of what the Delta variant had created, we all should tread with extreme caution,” Dr. Koushik Chaki, a founding member of the West Bengal Doctors’ Forum, told The Hindu .

“All concerned with healthcare management must proactively engage to enhance surveillance, sequencing and other measures to better understand if Omicron has different transmission or disease characteristics, or impacts the effectiveness of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics,” he stated.

The State’s first Omicron patient is a seven-year-old boy from Murshidabad, who recently returned home with his parents from Abu Dhabi via Hyderabad and Kolkata. Both his parents have tested negative. The boy is now in a Murshidabad hospital.

‘Effective strategies needed’

“Effective public health strategies, especially COVID-appropriate behaviour, must be effectively implemented and if required, non-compliance should be dealt with punitive actions. This being the season when we see plenty of weddings and festivals where significant number of people come together in close contact, it may be a better idea to organise events either in the open or in well-ventilated spaces. Wearing of masks and hand hygiene should be made mandatory,” Dr. Chaki said.

“Schools and colleges have reopened, there are and there will be a series of examinations to be held, many in the offline mode, so we need to ensure COVID-appropriate behaviour to the best of our abilities,” he observed.

“The aged and the vulnerable should be protected through vaccination and other measures. It is vitally important that inequities in access to COVID-19 vaccines are urgently addressed in order to ensure that vulnerable groups everywhere, including health workers and older people, receive their first and second doses, alongside equitable access to treatment and diagnostics. We have demanded booster dose for frontline workers and the vulnerable population but the government is yet to respond positively. While we understand that covering such a vast population is a challenge, such evasive posturing will not be accepted well by the medical fraternity who bore the burden of the frontal attack,” he added.

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Printable version | Mar 5, 2022 9:37:53 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/extreme-caution-warns-kolkata-doctor-as-bengal-records-1st-omicron-case/article37968805.ece