Covid-19: How bad is it this time and other burning questions

As there seems to be rising concerns as we head into the year-end, we answer a few questions on the current Coronavirus case load in the country

Representative image
Representative image

Ashlin Mathew

Amidst a rise in Covid-19 cases around the world and in China, the union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya noted the importance of being prepared and remaining alert against new and emerging strains of COVID-19, especially in view of the upcoming festive season.

Mandaviya had chaired a meeting on Wednesday where he was briefed on the global COVID19 situation and the domestic scenario. States/UTs have been requested to send samples of all COVID-19 positive cases to INSACOG Genome Sequencing Laboratories (IGSLs) on a daily basis, for sequencing, to track new variants, if any.

In the Lok Sabha, he said the continuously evolving nature of the virus poses threat to global health in a way that impacts virtually every country. India has reported 153 new cases on average daily as against 5.87 lakh on a daily basis across the world.

However, as there seems to be worry as we head into the year-end, we answer a few questions on the current Coronavirus case load in the country:

1) Are the Covid-19 cases increasing rapidly in India? Is there a need to panic?

India has been witnessing a steady decline in cases with average daily cases falling to 158 in the week ending December 19, 2022. Virologists and immunologists in the country assert there is no need to panic.

Eminent virologist Dr T Jacob John pointed out that Omicron is not a killer variant and mortality as a result of Omicron variants is low especially in countries like India where we don’t have a higher percentage of senior citizens.

2) Is the surge in China due to a Delta variant or is there a new Covid-19 strain in China?

The Omicron BF.7 variant of COVID-19 is believed to be driving the reported surge of cases in China, but these variants were identified in India in Gujarat and Odisha in July and September this year. But, there was no reported increase in severity of cases in either of the two states.

3) Which is the dominant Covid-19 strain in India?

In India, the dominant Covid-19 variant is Omicron AB5 (which is linked to BF.7), but they have been limited in numbers.

4) Is there a reason for people to take boosters?

The decision to give booster shots to every adult currently not evidence-based, stated Dr Srinath Reddy, the past president of the Public Health Foundation of India, as they have not convincingly demonstrated protective effects against infection by new Omicron variants. The elderly and those with co-morbidities may be given heterologous vaccine booster doses.

5) What is a heterologous vaccine booster?

In heterologous boosting, a person is injected with a different vaccine from that was used for the primary dose and in homologous boosting, the person is given the same vaccine that was used for the two previous doses.

Corbevax was approved by the union health ministry as a heterologous COVID-19 booster dose under emergency use authorisation for individuals aged 18 years and above after six months of administration of primary vaccination (two doses) of Covaxin or Covishield vaccine.

6) What can be done to prevent the spread of Covid-19?

Masks should be worn in closed indoor spaces and in crowded public spaces.

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