Omicron surge warrants the need for caution

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With two years of learnings from the pandemic, let us all come together and exercise the utmost caution to prevent a health catastrophe

Omicron scare: Why surge in COVID-19 cases worldwide warrants the need for caution

Representational image. PTI

It has been close to over two years since the global onset of the pandemic and all of us are wondering it will truly end. During this two-year period, we witnessed the miracle of science and medicine as well as the disastrous consequences of a pandemic. While cases were on a steady decline globally, we are now faced with a highly mutated variant that has the potential to cripple the health systems and put undue stress on our healthcare workers.

None of us can forget how rapidly the delta variant spread leading to a collapse of the health infrastructure. The uninhibited surge evaded all kind of scientific monitoring radar systems and we were hit with a health crisis without any warning.

During the first wave in 2020, there was very little known about the virus and the scientific and medical community across the globe were grappling in an unfamiliar territory. The second wave induced by Delta was upon us with no warning and led to the loss of precious human lives, devastating families forever. Unlike the first two waves, we have no reason to be under any kind of illusion given the trove of empirical data and scientific evidence that we have built over the last two years. While the variant is new, the way to combat the sars-cov-2 pandemic remains the same.

This is the time to rely on data systems to provide us with reliable insights to tackle any new clusters hyper locally.

The latest reports suggest that Omicron is at least three times more transmissible than the deadly delta virus. In the US, 73 percent of new cases are caused by the Omicron variant. Omicron may soon account for most of the new cases globally. Other reports suggest that Omicron causes milder disease, evidently infecting the unvaccinated and causing breakthrough infections in those who have already had COVID, those who are partially or fully vaccinated.

Many studies have reported that the risk of hospitalisation with an Omicron infection is lesser compared to Delta. Over 60 percent of our adult population is fully vaccinated and 85 percent is covered with at least one dose.

Even while Omicron is known to evade immune status, vaccination provides coverage and is reported to reduce severity of disease. We also need to remember that our young population is still unvaccinated and are at considerable risk and therefore the need for cautiousness.

Despite having complete vaccination coverage, it is crucial to follow COVID-appropriate behavior to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. All of us are aware that those who faced severe COVID symptoms still have lingering effects of long COVID. Masking while being indoors and avoiding get-together is the right thing to do at the moment. We can also hope and rely on our public and private healthcare institutes to ensure enough availability of life saving medicines, hospital beds and vaccines.

Rigorous testing of those with symptoms, those with a travel history and close contacts is the need of the hour.

In order to keep our infrastructure from collapsing and to reduce the load on hospitals, it is important to bring back measures that reduce the transmission of cases. As people are winding down for year-end, let us remind ourselves to be vigilant and avoid crowded spaces.

A well-fitting N95 mask offers the best protection.

 

There was an incredible pressure on testing laboratories at the height of the second wave. Our laboratories, lab professionals and doctors worked 24X7 for days together to ensure that patients received reports on time. At SRL, we have doubled our COVID testing capacity in the past few months and are equipped to handle a surge in cases with 23 accredited laboratories across the country.

We also are armed with genome sequencing capabilities and can support the government and research institutes with their surveillance efforts. With two years of learnings from the pandemic, let us all come together and exercise the utmost caution to prevent a health catastrophe.

Anand. K is Chief Executive Officer, SRL Diagnostics

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