The Omicron wave is looming and India must prepare itself to deal with another possible outbreak, this time triggered by the new COVID-19 variant called Omicron. But before you start to despair, let us tell you that you can keep yourself safe from it. And it starts with awareness. COVID cases are indeed increasing in India. But why? Is it just because Omicron is very contagious or is something else behind it? Read on to find out.
Omicron is here and may trigger the potential third wave
The second wave that was caused by the Delta had abated by October. India started registering very few cases since October. Naturally, most of us thought that the worst of COVID-19 has passed.
But in late November 2021, South African scientists identified a new variant which was named Omicron or B.1.1.529. This is by far the most infectious COVID-19 variant and very soon Omicron cases began to be reported in other countries of Africa, Europe and the Americas.
In early December, Omicron reached India. By December 31st, India crossed the 16,000 Covid cases mark, for the first time in 4 months. With 16, 764 cases being reported on 31st December, India has logged the highest case count since October. The number has been rising steadily since then. According to the Union Ministry of Health, the Omicron case tally, for now, is 1700.
Densely populated states and cities naturally rank high. Maharashtra and the NCT have more Omicron cases than the rest of the country. By December 31st, Delhi recorded a 42% increase, and Mumbai a 46% increase from the previous day.
The positivity rate, for now, is 1.87%. According to WHO, this rate should be below 5%. Once the 5% mark is crossed, containing the spread becomes immensely challenging.
Maharashtra, the NCT and Karnataka hospitals have been admitting a steady stream of COVID-19 patients, the number being higher than that of the last few months. The good news is most of these people are recovering well. This is in keeping with what has been observed in South Africa and the UK.
So far, there are no reports on the severity of illness in cases of COVID-19 caused by omicron among the vulnerable population (babies and people with comorbidities).
Why has there been such a rapid upsurge of COVID-19 cases?
One reason why COVID cases are increasing in India is that Omicron is highly transferable. As soon as it arrived in India, experts knew that it would spread and there would be a risk of the third wave. Caution was sounded.
However, not all cases of COVID-19 being recorded are triggered by Omicron. So why did COVID cases abate and then pick up again?
The most obvious reason is our complacency. As soon as the second wave receded, people began to relax COVID-19 precautions. Even the previous variants like Delta are still spreading and causing infections. When we do not mask up, sanitize or wash up, we make ourselves and everyone else vulnerable to an infection caused by any COVID-19 variant.
The increase in travelling and gatherings during the winter festive season has been a contributing factor in the spike of Covid cases everywhere.
What is to be done now?
The Union Government and state governments (such as West Bengal) have already released or devised new COVID-19 circulars outlining the restrictions that have or will come into force. Common guidelines you may expect include operating trains and metros at 50% capacity, quarantine zones, work from home wherever possible, 50% attendance in offices, night curfews, restriction of flights, etc.
Now the onus is on every one of us to be cautious. Only by being prudent will we be able to keep ourselves safe from Omicron, the other variants of COVID-19 and from the third wave. Let us not be complacent just because Omicron is likely to be less dangerous than the other variants. The threat is serious. The third wave is at our doorstep and for the next few weeks, we must all observe every COVID-19 precaution.
Studies predict that unless we are careful, the third wave caused by Omicron may result in 150% more cases than the second wave. Such a caseload would overwhelm our healthcare services.
For age 15 to 18 COVID vaccines are being administered now. So please get your child registered for the vaccine. If you are yet to receive full vaccination, make sure that you get both doses as soon as possible. Vaccination can save lives.
Let us all recall the horrors of the second wave. It is fresh in our collective memory. Let us make sure that there is no repeat of that. For the sake of our loved ones, and our country and world at large. We can all try to be cautious in the upcoming days. Cancel your holiday plans (if possible), and avoid crowds because health is more important right now than enjoyment.
Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.