COVID-19: no need for scaremongering, precautions needed, say health experts

They emphasise on ensuring COVID-appropriate behaviour, including masking in public places. As the new virus variants are the sub variants of Omicron, which in itself was less lethal than Delta, there was no need for the public to go into a tizzy

December 22, 2022 08:55 pm | Updated 08:55 pm IST - Thiruvananthapuram

Even as the Central and State governments have called for a general alert over a possible rise in COVID-19 cases, public health experts have warned against scaremongering over COVID-19.

Precautions are needed and COVID-appropriate behaviour, including masking in public places, need to be in place. Yet, there was no place for scaremongering that is currently happening over social media, which seems to have given rise to many uncertainties amongst the public regarding the possibility of another pandemic wave in the making.

One of the posts that has been going viral on social media is a post that the “Omicron XBB variant is five times more virulent than Delta” and that it can produce extreme severity, even when there are no obvious symptoms.

Public health experts point out that as the new virus variants coming into circulation are the sub variants of Omicron, which in itself was less lethal than Delta, there was no need for the public to go into a tizzy over the new variants.

“Omicron’s new sub variants seem to have fuelled a resurgence of COVID cases in China as well as South Korea, with the latter recording a daily case load of 50,000-90,000 cases since last week. It is thus possible that the resurgence of COVID in China can lead to an increase in cases in our parts of the world too. But current evidence does not indicate the possibility of an increase in severity,” says T. S. Anish, a public health expert.

Low immunity in population

Increased hospitalisations and death due to COVID-19 in China is because of the low innate immunity in the population and the poor vaccination rate among the elderly. In South Korea, despite the massive swell in cases only 0.2% has required hospitalisation.

The State should however improve disease surveillance, keep an eye out for the emergence of new virus variants through better genomic surveillance, monitor the trend of hospital admissions and be on the look out for case clustering in the community, Dr. Anish says.

Alog with COVID, a seasonal increase in Influenza cases also should be expected and hence testing of symptomatic cases coming to hospitals would be important

“A small surge in COVID cases should be expected because it is the holiday season and there is increased travel and interactions. But i do not foresee the China situation creating any problem for us because of the strong hybrid immunity amongst our population. It is however possible that some groups of people who have never had COVID but have only vaccine-derived immunity might be at increased risk of infection,” says Rajeev Jayadevan,co-Chairman, National IMA COVID Task Force.

Effectiveness of booster shots

Public health experts are also sceptical about the usefulness of COVID booster shots, except maybe in the case of those over 80 years of age or those with serious comorbidities.

“Those who have opted for the inactivated vaccine (like Covaxin) should however opt for the third dose as two doses may not provide sufficient protection,” says Dr. Jayadevan.

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