Omicron Still Presents A Mixed Scenario Even As A Patient Dies in UK!

Photo: bostonherald.com

The World Health Organization (WHO) n its latest update to the media that the new Omicron variant of SARS-Cov-2 virus had spread to around 63 countries till now and that as per the data available so far, the new variant seems to spreading much rapidly than the Delta variant; there seems to be a reduction in vaccine efficacy against the new variant; it had also demonstrated its ability to reinfect; and that it was still too early to comment on its severity. Among almost all nations of Europe having confirmed Omicron cases the United Kingdom is bearing the brunt of its rapid spread with the highest number of Omicron cases of around 4700 thus far and more than 1500 new Omicron cases in the last 24 hours—the daily new COVID-19 cases now around 50000 daily. The UK Prime Minster Boris Johnson has sounded an alert saying that at least one patient has already succumbed to Omicron infection and therefore, its debated severity should be set aside and full focus has to be put on the response action. The UK has already been put under level-4 of Coronavirus threat in the 5-point scale with PM Johnson likely to address the nation soon. The country is yet to recover from the ongoing Delta surge and as per current statistics released by the Government 44% of the surge is due to Omicron in certain parts, about to become the dominant variant.


The scenario in South Africa where the new variant was detected last month still comes second to the United Kingdom in terms of Omicron cases despite the former registering over 13000 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours which is 119% more than the previous period and six times more than the last fortnight, a scary positivity rate of 31% and around 140% rise in hospitalizations compared to the previous week and more than 6000 patients being treated in hospitals at the moment. While there is no doubt that the rapid surge is fueled by Omicron the confirmed Omicron cases are lower than that of UK and doctors of South Africa are saying that Omicron cases are coming up with milder symptoms. The fatalities at 11 in the last 24 hours are significantly less than many other countries experiencing similar surges. The medical scientists of South Africa would want to attribute this scenario to the T-cell immunity in the population, obviously developed due to being infected in large numbers in the previous four waves. However, it is also being observed by some experts that the genome sequencing could be much slower than required to detect the new variant. 


Among other European nations Germany is facing a serious surge of infections with over 28000 new cases and 260 deaths in the last 24 hours, along with Hungary, Italy, France, Switzerland, Austria, Greece, Czechia and Denmark among others, the scenario about the Omicron cases in these countries should be clear in the coming weeks. The Republic of Russia has been under the Delta surge, now believed to fueled more by Omicron, registering consistently high daily figures of new cases and daily fatalities of over 1000 as in the recent days. The new variant also has not spared the most-vaccinated USA having spread to several states already. There have been over 95000 new COVID-19 cases in the USA with 549 deaths in the last 24 hours.


Omicron, declared as a Variant of Concern by the WHO, seems to have fully justified the concern all over the globe. A new study has projected about 75000 deaths in UK by April 2022 if the new variant continues to spread as fast as now. The point that comes out loud and clear is that irrespective of the debate around its supposed severity if the new variant happens to infect millions in the coming weeks there would be extreme pressure on the medical infra leading to shortages of medical oxygen, medicines and others which could result in many untreated deaths as we had sadly witnessed in India during the COVID-19 second wave early this year. Therefore, aggressive testing, tracing and COVID appropriate behavior continue to be of crucial importance, everywhere. A debate is also raging about giving a booster dose to all above the age of 50 in many countries including India. 


In India, Omicron cases are about 60 at the moment with around 28 of them detected in Maharashtra, the worst affected state; and 20 of the total infected being discharged. The situation is not alarming thanks to the milder symptoms seen so far, and with daily new cases coming below the 6000 mark and most of the daily deaths due to backlog counting, mostly in Kerala, everything seems to be under total control at the moment. However, in light of what we have seen above there is no place for complacency, particularly in view of what Delta had dished out to us. Like the UK, India too must come out with stronger preventive measures.


As per the latest media reports in India two leading heroines of Bollywood have tested COVID-19 positive after attending a dinner arranged by a prominent film personality last week. The municipal authorities of Mumbai have promptly sealed the residential buildings of the actors. This incident raises the question about banning public gatherings altogether, particularly indoor parties where the guests have to do away with the masks to drink and eat. This is not the time to play the ‘pass the buck’ or political games, but contribute in totality to prevent a disastrous third wave. As is usual in India, political rallies and events are going on in gay abandon in view of the forthcoming state elections. As we had said in our earlier pieces the Government must set examples for the citizens by showing restraint in mass politicking. They must focus their attention on ensuring the vaccines for children below 18 immediately and on the administration of a booster dose to the vulnerable, apart from vaccinating 100% of the population with two doses as soon as possible.

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