India reported 90,928 new Covid-19 cases and 325 deaths in the 24 hours. With 19,206 recoveries, the active cases in the country stood at 2,85,401. A total of 2,630 cases of Omicron variant of coronavirus have been detected in the country so far. According To the Ministry of Health.
A 74-year-old man who died in the western state of Rajasthan was India’s first death with the Omicron variant, the health ministry said on Wednesday.
Officials said the man had been suffering from diabetes and other comorbid conditions.
Satyajit Rath, an immunologist and visiting faculty at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Pune, said that our response has always been one of law and order.
He said, “We have been looking at our responses from a top-down approach the past two years. At no point does the fact that the government and communities need to work together come up. Social distancing and other such COVID-19-appropriate behaviour should have become a cultural norm by now and that is simply not happening, not even in the middle class and upper-middle class areas.”
The trajectory of SARS-CoV-2 variants is to successively become more transmissible. “In two years, we have not been able to provide proper N95 masks, and this did not even require new scientific technology, he pointed out. “Omicron’s transmissibility was predictable and mask efficiency doesn’t change based on every variant.”
Several Indian cities and states have put in place night curfews and 50 per cent capacity restrictions in public transport and offices. These are unlikely to have any real impact in curbing the spread of the virus, according to experts.
“Night curfew only sends a symbolic message that it is time to worry,” argued Rath. Capacity restrictions are a semi-reasonable effort to reduce crowding and maintain physical distance, he said.
However, Ram Vishwakarma, immunologist and former chairman of India’s Covid Strategy Group, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, argued otherwise. “Localised lockdown in hotspot localities will help in controlling the community spread of COVID-19,” he said.
Implementing 50 per cent capacity is a good idea to decrease crowding in public transport and offices, the expert added.
However, both believed that the best means to tackle omicron is to follow COVID-19-appropriate behaviour by following a strict mask mandate and ramping up vaccination.
India’s focus should be to enhance vaccinations, including booster dosing, Vishwakarma said. “Door-to-door vaccination drives are required in semi-urban and rural areas.”
India’s vaccination drive should not be an either-or situation. At present, India has fully vaccinated just 43 per cent of its total population. Booster dose administration will begin January 10 for healthcare workers and those above 60 years of age with comorbidities.
India started vaccinating children aged 15 and above on January 3, 2021. Covaxin and Covishield — the country’s first two vaccine candidates — received emergency-use authorisation 11 months ago, Rath said. “Why couldn’t we start testing these vaccines for children sooner?”