As local authorities impose restrictions in view of Omicron, industry bodies have asked the government to link restrictions to hospitalisation and not the overall case count.
India Inc is worried about the impact the restrictions, ranging from asking employees of private offices to work from home to shutting down cinema halls and dining at restaurants, will have on the fragile recovery that the economy had seen in the recent months.
FICCI President Sanjiv Mehta on January 10 wrote to Health and Family Welfare Minister Mansukh Mandaviya seeking a reduction in-home quarantine period to 5 days, booster dose for the entire population and opening vaccination for children above 12 years of age.
“Mobility restrictions based on the total number of cases and/or positivity rates is unwarranted. Any decision in this regard must be based on occupancy of hospital beds, especially critical care beds, and other factors like oxygen consumption,” he wrote.
While care must be taken that the overall load on health infrastructure is at manageable levels, mobility restrictions must be highly localised and there should be a coordinated strategy at the national level with a view to balance lives and livelihoods.
“Knee jerk reactions at a state, city or municipal level will not achieve much in terms of containing the spread while threatening economic recovery,” he wrote.
CII, separately, suggested to states that they should follow a micro-containment strategy, such as at a mohalla or village level while allowing normal economic activity in the rest of the district.
Mehta, who also heads FMCG major Hindustan Unilever, said booster doses of COVID vaccination should be allowed for the general population at the earliest as the level of protection is known to diminish with time.
“Assuming the booster dose is to be given 9 months after the second dose, we believe that existing inventory coupled with enhanced production capacity should be able to meet the needs,” he said.
Also, the vaccination programme should be opened up to the 12+ age category as keeping educational institutions closed for an extended period of time is not desirable.
“We recommend strengthening infrastructure to deal with asymptomatic/mild cases through teleconsultation and creating surge capacity to isolate & treat moderate cases so that hospital beds are available for more serious cases including those with comorbidities,” he added.
Industry, he said, has stepped up earlier when it came to critical issues like oxygen and it remains committed to working with the government to contain the current surge.
Stating that the recent surge in cases due to the spread of the Omicron variant is a cause of concern, he said the industry is confident that India will once again be able to win the fight against COVID-19 by taking decisions based on scientific rationale and accurate data.
Citing recommendations of the FICCI COVID Task Force, he said the quarantine period, especially for those in home isolation, should be reduced to 5 days.
“This is based on emerging data that most patients recover within 3-5 days, and is particularly relevant for healthcare workers as a longer quarantine period might result in critical manpower shortages,” he said, adding the US and the UK too follow a similar approach.
“Given that the Omicron variant is highly transmissible, it is not the best use of resources to trace contacts of COVID positive cases and earlier guidelines in this regard will have diminishing returns,” he said.
Similarly, genome sequencing of all COVID positive cases to confirm the Omicron variant is not required — only a representative sample should undergo genome sequencing in order to have advance warning of any newer variants, he added.