New variant, clusters: Next 3 months crucial, say experts

Following growing concern about a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 and reporting of cluster infections in the State, COVID-19 experts here have cautioned that the next three months are crucial.

The State’s COVID-19 Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) that met on Friday to discuss the clusters has now recommended a revision in the testing strategy. Following this, the State has now revised the overall daily tests to 80,000 from 60,000 with focus on the districts where clusters have been reported.

No need to panic

Pointing out that there is no need to panic as of now, V. Ravi, nodal officer for genomic confirmation of SARS-CoV-2 in Karnataka and TAC member, said following COVID appropriate behaviour is the only protection now.

“As the new variant has the ability to escape from vaccine induced immunity, even those vaccinated should be careful. The rise in cluster infections in the State is an indication that we may be closer to a third wave of COVID in the State. The next three months are crucial and if people do not behave responsibly in the coming months, we may be inviting the third wave earlier than expected,” he said.

“We should immediately step up testing in the districts where clusters are being reported. While screening apart from stringent and rigorous testing at airports should be done, positive samples should be genome sequenced,” he said.

U.S. Vishal Rao, member of the State’s Genomic Surveillance Committee, said the detection of another new variant reiterates the fact that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is not at rest. It is continuously transforming itself to attain more transmissibility, virulence and vaccine-escape mutations,” he said.

Asserting that there should be absolute vigilance for the next three months, Dr. Rao said: “It is prudent at this juncture to further strengthen the vaccination drive. I would also strongly recommend a booster shot, at least for healthcare and frontline workers now.”

‘Reimpose restrictions’

Haleema Yezdani, a general physician, who has been regularly tele-triaging and tele-treating COVID-19 patients through the Emergency Response Team and Project StepOne groups that offer free service to people in getting beds and treatment, said the government should re-impose restrictions on all congregations and get-togethers now.

“The detection of the new variant is a reminder that we should not let our guard down and continue to follow COVID appropriate behaviour,” she said.

Second doses

C.N. Manjunath, nodal officer for labs and testing in the State’s Covid-19 task force, said all those who are due for the second dose should be vaccinated on priority.

“Although the new variant has the ability to escape vaccine induced immunity, that is only partial. Vaccination will still reduce hospitalisations and disease severity,” he said.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2022 11:10:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/new-variant-clusters-next-3-months-crucial-say-experts/article37731469.ece

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