Omicron will peak sometime in February, start dropping by March-April: K Hariprasad, group president, Apollo Hospitals

The expectation is that Omicron will peak sometime in February and start sliding down by March-April: Dr K Hariprasad

The increasing home healthcare and quarantine facilities have also provided a fillip to telemedicine, he added.
The increasing home healthcare and quarantine facilities have also provided a fillip to telemedicine, he added.

By Rajesh Kurup

Omicron: Chennai-headquartered Apollo Hospitals Group has already provided 8 million Covid-19 vaccinations through its 200 centres across the country, launched Stay-i (quarantine facilities provided jointly with hotels) and ramped up healthcare initiatives. The group’s president, Dr K Hariprasad, tells Rajesh Kurup that more variants of the virus are expected to emerge, but with less virulence than the initial strain. The increasing home healthcare and quarantine facilities have also provided a fillip to telemedicine, he added. Edited excerpts:

The Omicron variant is spreading much faster than expected. How is the ground preparedness?

There is a definite spike in the number of cases, as Omicron is a very infectious variant. States have also been told to ensure uninterrupted supply of liquid medical oxygen (O2) tanks, strengthen O2 plants and maintain an adequate supply of O2 cylinders and concentrators.

As a group, Apollo has provided close to 8 million vaccinations through 200 centres across the country. We have ramped up our home healthcare, launched Stay-i and adopted technology to provide good medical supervision to Covid patients. We are much better prepared this time with oxygen plants, ventilators and medicines, including Molnupiravir (anti-viral used to treat Covid-19).

When do you expect the Omicron infections to peak?

The expectation is that Omicron will peak sometime in February and start sliding down by March-April. What the scientists are predicting is, as we go by, we will have more and more variants that are lesser in terms of virulence. So, the virus becomes a regular part of the system without the same virulence or potency that the initial virus strains had.

With a lot of asymptomatic people, testing in the country is also a challenge?

A lot of people have minimal symptoms or are asymptomatic. Now, these people do not get tested nor take measures, and they become mass spreaders. That’s a big worry and that can cause a lot more infections. So, it is important that testing is done.

On the importance of vaccinating the younger generation, of 15-18 years of age, for whom it has opened up now…

This category of children has been staying home, taking online classes and have missed out on the cultural and the social aspect of schooling for the last two years. By getting vaccinated, they can get back to school. Further, this age group of people are asymptomatic carriers and they carry the virus back home and then possibly infect high-risk people at home.

How has the pandemic helped the healthcare sector, especially on the Aatmanirbhar Bharat front?

When the pandemic hit, we didn’t have a single PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) kit, but today we are not only producing enough for India, but we are exporting them. Now we are producing vaccines and ventilators. Earlier, the world was looking at us mainly for pharma, now they are procuring consumables and vaccines.

A lack of standardisation of technology is alleged as the biggest hindrance for telemedicine in India. Comments.

Telehealth is becoming a big thing, especially with more home healthcare and quarantine happening. The positive part of it is people have access to medical services online at any point. With the initiatives in the National Digital Health Mission taking off, the standardisation of technologies will also happen.

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