Tackling Covid Variant B.1.1.529: Fortifying these bulwarks is the first step

Experts see India as a nation with hybrid immunity against Coronavirus, which means nation has twin advantage of high infection & vaccination, unlike Europe.

Written by November 29, 2021 21:16
Omicron vs Delta

New Covid-19 variant named B.1.1.529, emanating from South Africa has created global anxiety and concern over virus’s fast infection rate and transmissibility. The world is nervous & getting panicky, especially those countries battered by 2nd & 3rd wave which include India and Europe.
India, having witnessed worst ever health crisis in April-May this year during second wave of Covid outbreak, must be prepared with virus control plan & strategy to ward off similar health crisis.

The virus, reported to have over 30 mutations via spiked proteins, has emerged as dominant strain over others in just two weeks. Delta strain, till date the most fatal variant, has been overwhelmed by the new evolved variant – Omicron. The scale of alarm & alert is evident from its classification by the WHO as ‘the virus of concern’ in just 2 weeks after its origin.

Though it is too early to study impact of virus on the population. Unless patients infected with Omicron start showing symptoms leading to hospitalization, deaths or denting the efficacy of vaccine, not much could be known about the virus.

We must strengthen our defence by fortifying these bulwarks against new variant:

Air travel curbs on ‘at risk’ countries are necessary because India can’t afford another explosion of Covid wave. Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling for review of air travel is a step in the right direction. As per a recent order, international flights were about to begin from December 15.

Omicron variant

Testing, tracking & surveillance is the second most important bulwark that should be strengthened and beefed up. Those travellers arriving from affected countries should be screened, tested at airports and quarantined. Contact tracing, as done in 2nd wave, should be stepped up and those suspected with new strain should be kept in strict isolation. Countries like Israel & Hong Kong detected Omicron in their land via this mechanism. India must scale up scanning & tracing and also sequencing of the samples of travellers, without any laxity.

Experts see India as a nation with hybrid immunity against Coronavirus, which means nation has twin advantage of high infection & vaccination, unlike Europe.

However, Vaccination still remains the strongest weapon and bulwark against the highly contagious virus. Post the 2nd wave, the whole country is being administered vaccine free of cost. Government had promised to vaccinate entire population by 2021 end but still a large % of population remains unvaccinated. Surplus vaccines are available with states but unless it’s harnessed to the hilt, it won’t yield desired results. Reducing the vaccine gap between 2 vaccines, namely Covishield could be another step to immunise large population at the earliest. Call of the hour is to fight the virus decisively rather than moving at snail’s pace and risking another lockdown.

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