Omicron Scare: Delhi And Mumbai Leading So Far, The Third Wave Looming Large!

The national capital Delhi and the financial capital Mumbai are leading the Omicron spread-chart in India in terms of total cases and an Omicron-fueled rising trend in daily COVID-19 cases. While Mumbai has shown a 70% rise in daily cases in two days Delhi has shown a 50% rise, both metros registering the highest numbers of daily cases in six months. Mumbai has 1377 cases in the last 24 hours with Maharashtra going above 2000 and Delhi having nearly 500 daily cases in the same period. Delhi has 238 Omicron cases so far while Mumbai has 167 cases with the new variant having spread to 21 states of the country. Overall, India has till now around 780 Omicron cases, showing a 44% increase in a week, and a total daily COVID-19 cases of over 9000 in the last 24 hours, after hovering around 6000-7000 in the previous several days. Kerala cases are still over 2000 and although Omicron cases are still low compared to Delhi and Mumbai the state is consistently having high fatality figures. Since it is already confirmed that the new variant is incredibly contagious, the Third Wave in India is seemingly just around the corner, if only the authorities take cognizance and action. 

The Yellow alert, as decided by the Delhi government in July this year under the Disaster Management Act, has already been sounded, because the positivity rate has been over 0,5% for more than two days, reaching an alarming 0,89% now. More curbs are accordingly imposed under the yellow alert: night curfew is imposed now from 10 pm onward instead of 11 pm: schools/colleges, malls, cinema halls, auditoriums and gyms are being closed again; a maximum of only 20 attendees in marriages/funerals are to be allowed; restaurants/bars, metro railway, public buses are to operate at 50% capacity; no social, cultural and religious gatherings with restriction on entry to religious places; and all offices also have to function with 50% physical attendance. If the positivity rate crosses 1% orange alert will be declared which would be not much different from the yellow, but if the rate crosses 5% lockdown-like situation is bound to return. 

In Mumbai, night curfew from 9 pm to 6 pm and other curbs on gatherings have already been in force including no New Year parties and no crowds on the beaches. With the new figures the Maharashtra government is reportedly having discussions with the civic authorities and if the rising trend continues in the next few days we can expect more stringent curbs, not only in Mumbai but all across the state. The effectiveness of night curfews is debatable as during the daytime everything seems to be normal everywhere in the country including the political rallies, and people are largely seen to not take these restriction seriously, as if inspired by their leaders. There has been no evidence to suggest that the Coronavirus variants are nocturnal creatures and sleep during the day. More positively, people in the national capital or elsewhere mostly react to the curbs as very necessary considering the threat, despite having to queue up for trains and buses and all other related hassles. 

In the meantime, the Government of India has gifted a hat-trick of approvals to two COVID-19 vaccines yesterday, namely Covovax, the Indian version of the already approved Novavax, to be manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII), India's first indigenously developed  RBD (receptor-binding domain) protein sub-unit vaccine Corbevax to be manufactured by the Hyderabad based Biological-E firm and the US-approved Merck’s anti-viral COVID pill Molnupiravir for treating highly progressive adult patients after the first five days of symptoms. Of course, the Indian drug regulator DCGI’s final seal of approval is awaited in this hat-trick. How we wish this burst of approvals took place post-January this year when these were desperately needed; but the election-oriented government largely ignored with applications pending for approval from giants like Pfizer and others. No doubt, those vaccines were rather too costly; but those who could have afforded perhaps could have saved their lives. Unfortunately, the government was at that time was busy saving expenditures and also focused on self-reliance, boasting about being the largest pharmacy of the world and therefore exporting the precious vaccine doses. 

As we have said earlier the Omicron scare is very real. No need to talk garbage about it being less severe or leading to less hospitalization or deaths. The simple fact is that once the daily figures cross hundreds of thousands it’d obviously overwhelm the health infra even if only 1% of that need to be hospitalized, thus leading to more deaths. The top country on the Omicron chart, the United Kingdom, has shown a 53% rise in hospitalizations and 124 deaths in the last seven days. France, Denmark, Canada, Spain, Italy and many other countries are slowly coming under the ominous Omicron spread, and therefore the authorities in India should not sit pretty speculating and giving the green signals to all political activities like elections. Even if the citizens are clueless at the moment they must continue with the masks, hand-hygiene, social distancing and avoiding unnecessary moving out of homes or holidaying or partying. 


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