With detection of Omicron sub-variant in India, medical experts sound an alarm, insist on adhering to COVID-19 protocols

It is time to follow the rules of wearing the mask and keeping away from public gatherings, they advise

December 21, 2022 08:17 pm | Updated 10:02 pm IST - VISAKHAPATNAM

The alert issued at the airports, including the one pertaining to masks, indicates that the situation is serious and people have to be careful while venturing out, say experts.

The alert issued at the airports, including the one pertaining to masks, indicates that the situation is serious and people have to be careful while venturing out, say experts. | Photo Credit: K.R. DEEPAK

Going by the media reports on the COVID-19 situation in China, Japan and the U.S., the situation once again looks grim, and it appears that the world is heading back to square one.

With reports on detection of three cases of Omicron sub-variant (BF.7) — two in Gujarat and one in Odisha, it is even more pertinent that we go back to the COVID-19 protocols.

Alert at airports

“It is the BF.7 variant that is driving China’s drastic COVID-19 surge. The variant was detected in India a day after the Union Government issued an alert and called for genome sequencing of samples at the testing centre,” said Director of Visakha Institute of Medical Sciences (VIMS) K. Rambabu.

The Government of Andhra Pradesh on Wednesday issued alerts at the airports, including the one pertaining to masks. “This indicates that the situation is serious and we now need to be careful,” said Dr. Rambabu.

The airports have been told to screen passenger, conduct tests and do the monitoring. Mask alert is back at public places.

As per the initial reports, the BF.7 variant is highly transmissible and also virulent, as reports from China indicate about 40,000 cases per day and a large number of deaths.

“But how will it react in India is to be seen. A large chunk of the population is already vaccinated. Though Omicron had hit India hard, the death rate was fortunately on the lower side,” said P.V. Sudhakar, Principal of Government Medical College, Ongole.

“The winter is on and it is time to follow the time-tested protocols of wearing a mask and keeping away from public gathering,” Dr. Sudhakar advised.

Cases so far

As on December 20, India had recorded about 132 cases. The total number of cases detected since the beginning of the pandemic, as per the government’s COVID-19 tracker, is 4.47 crore with over 5.31 lakh deaths.

As far as Andhra Pradesh is concerned, there have been no positive cases in the last one week, and the total cases so far is around 23.4 lakh with over 14,700 deaths.

“With the virus making a comeback after a gap, it is time to monitor the developments. Apart from genome sequencing, the authorities concerned should monitor how the virus is affecting people who have been vaccinated, or have developed anti-bodies after acquiring COVID-19 earlier. This will enable further study for the development of vaccines and antibodies,’ the experts said.

The experts also said that the medical fraternity that had served the earlier waves should be alerted and brought to the forefront to handle this wave effectively.

“Infrastructure-wise we are ready and we now have sufficient staff and the required oxygen stock to handle any eventuality,” said Dr. Rambabu.

Online meeting with medical colleges

It is learnt that the Union Government is organising an online meeting with all medical colleges across the country on Thursday to understand the situation and workout a plan for the way forward. The meeting is being coordinated by All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

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