Will Omicron be as deadly as Delta in India?

Much has been made about the potential that can be caused by the Omicron variant of coronavirus and India, especially, is concerned if it can cause as much damage as the Delta variant did early this year. The second wave of Covid-19 caused devastating losses to the Indian populace and public health specialists are now debating what kind of damage the Omicron variant might cause.

DR NK Mehra, An honourary emeritus scientist of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), told the Times of India that information available so far suggests that Omicron is more transmissible and therefore, it has the potential to replace Delta as the predominant variant. “In South Africa, the Alpha variant was predominant initially but was overtaken by Delta. And now, 70% of all Covid-19 cases are being caused by Omicron variant,” he said.

“South Africa has the largest population suffering from HIV/AIDS. It also has low vaccination rates. This could be the reason behind the increased need for hospitalisation in persons affected by Covid-19 due to the Omicron variant. It is too early to say whether the predominance of the new variant will have a similar impact in India where a significant number of adults have been vaccinated. If you look at reports from other countries that have reported detection of the Omicron variant, there aren’t any cases with severe symptoms,” he further added..

Dr SK Sarin, director of the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS), has said that it takes 8-12 weeks for a new variant to overtake the existing one. But there is a high rate of replication being seen when it comes to Omicron. He says because of this, the new variant may spread faster. “We need to be more vigilant about adopting preventive measures and strengthening steps required to detect and isolate positive cases early on,” he said.

Noted public health analyst and epidemiologist Dr Chandrakant Lahariyahas said that there were fewer chances of the Omicron variant causing a crisis similar to the one seen during the second wave of the pandemic in India.

Lok Nayak Hospital in Delhi has been designated to isolate and treat international travellers who test positive for Covid-19. Dr Suresh Kumar, the hospital’s medical director, said that the viruses are known to evolve to be able to survive. “SARS-CoV-2 has also evolved. But we don’t know for sure whether they have become more deadly. Chances are that the new variant may cause milder symptoms,” he said.


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