There is no cause for concern over rising Covid-19 cases as the milder Omicron variant is behind the recent spate of infections, say medical experts. Dr Raman Gangakhedkar, the Dr CG Pandit National Chair, Indian Council of Medical Research, and former head, division of epidemiology and communicable diseases (ICMR), told FE, “We should only worry if instances of hospitalisation and death increase,” adding that the government would have to keep a watch on abnormal rate of spread or abnormal manifestation during hospitalisation and look at deaths. “The number of positive cases will obviously increase if tests increase, and nearly 90% of the country is already infected by Omicron,” he pointed out.
Ruling out any need for a lockdown, Dr Gangakhedkar, who is also a member of the national taskforce on Covid-19, and was a member of the clinical research group on Covid-19, however, cautioned, “People should not forget the lessons Covid has taught and should follow Covid-appropriate behaviour.”
He said the XBB.1.16 variant currently prevalent is part of the same lineage of Omicron and is not a ‘variant of concern’, as it does not overcome the immune system. This variant is also not unique to India and has at its peak seen 0.4% cases in genomic surveillance, he said.
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He warned that people should follow vaccination schedules and opt for boosters as multiple infections can lead to an increase in post-Covid syndrome and persistent symptoms.
Dr Anupam Sibal, group medical director, Apollo Hospitals, said while the country had achieved a commendable level of hybrid immunity, thanks to the high vaccination coverage of over 220 crore doses and prior exposure to the other variants, nonetheless, it is important to continue taking precautions. “Wearing masks in crowded places, avoiding crowded areas (especially for vulnerable groups), maintaining social distance, frequently washing hands, and using sanitisers to prevent any further spread of the virus are desirable,” he said. In case anyone experienced symptoms of respiratory illness, such as fever and cough, it is important to consult a doctor and avoid self-diagnosis and self-medication, he advised. He reiterated that there was no need to panic, but people had to take necessary precautions to stay safe.
Dr Tanu Singhal, consultant, paediatrics and infectious disease at the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital in Mumbai, said the increase in Covid cases would continue to occur every few months, like other respiratory illnesses, and most cases were mild and need just supportive care. “People who are elderly and immunocompromised should take extra precautions, like masking and taking the precautionary dose if not taken earlier,” Dr Sibal suggested.
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The country on Saturday reported 2,986 fresh Covid-19 cases. India’s active caseload stood at 16,354 cases with 1,43,354 tests conducted in the last 24 hours, the health ministry said. The daily positivity rate was 2.09% while the weekly positivity rate was 2.03%. At 765 cases Kerala reported the highest daily Covid cases, followed by Maharashtra (425), Gujarat (338), Karnataka (286), Delhi (240), Himachal Pradesh (183), Haryana (128) and Uttar Pradesh at 112 cases.