Omicron likely less severe due to vaccine, prior infection: India / SOURCE: Al Jazeera

Health min­istry says sever­i­ty of new strain in the coun­try could be low be­cause of vac­ci­na­tion and wide­spread ex­po­sure to Delta vari­ant.

In­dia’s health min­istry says the sever­i­ty of COVID-19 dis­ease from the Omi­cron vari­ant in the coun­try could be low due to vac­ci­na­tion and wide­spread ex­po­sure to the Delta vari­ant that in­fect­ed near­ly 70 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion by Ju­ly.

“Giv­en the fast pace of vac­ci­na­tion in In­dia and high ex­po­sure to Delta vari­ant as ev­i­denced by high seropos­i­tiv­i­ty, the sever­i­ty of the dis­ease is an­tic­i­pat­ed to be low,” it said in a state­ment on Fri­day.

“How­ev­er, sci­en­tif­ic ev­i­dence is still evolv­ing.”

In­dia on Fri­day re­port­ed 9,216 new COVID-19 in­fec­tions af­ter an­nounc­ing its first two Omi­cron cas­es the pre­vi­ous day. Deaths rose by 391, bring­ing the to­tal to 470,115.

To­tal COVID-19 cas­es have now reached 34.62 mil­lion, health min­istry da­ta showed.

The health min­istry on Thurs­day con­firmed its first cas­es of the Omi­cron coro­n­avirus vari­ant in two peo­ple and of­fi­cials said one pas­sen­ger had ar­rived from South Africa and the oth­er, a per­son who had not trav­elled to the coun­try at all.

The min­istry said the cas­es in­volved two men in the south­ern Kar­nata­ka state, a 66-year-old man who had trav­elled to In­dia from South Africa and a 46-year-old doc­tor.

Hun­dreds of con­tacts of the two men have been traced and test­ed for the virus and at least five peo­ple have test­ed pos­i­tive for the virus.

Health of­fi­cials said the 66-year-old man who test­ed pos­i­tive was asked to self-iso­late in the ho­tel where he was stay­ing be­cause he had no symp­toms.

The man test­ed him­self again pri­vate­ly on No­vem­ber 23 and af­ter re­ceiv­ing a neg­a­tive re­sult trav­elled to Dubai on No­vem­ber 27, state health of­fi­cials said.

The 46-year-old doc­tor was test­ed on No­vem­ber 22 af­ter he had a fever and his body ached, of­fi­cials said. He self-iso­lat­ed the same day and five of his con­tacts test­ed pos­i­tive af­ter­wards and have since been iso­lat­ed.

Much re­mains un­known about the new vari­ant, in­clud­ing whether it is more con­ta­gious, as some health au­thor­i­ties sus­pect, whether it makes peo­ple more se­ri­ous­ly ill and whether it can thwart the vac­cine.

In­dia has al­ready clas­si­fied sev­er­al coun­tries as “at-risk” in re­sponse to the Omi­cron vari­ant, and trav­ellers from those coun­tries are be­ing test­ed af­ter they ar­rive in In­dia.

In ad­di­tion, In­dia is test­ing 2 per­cent of all oth­er in­ter­na­tion­al trav­ellers ran­dom­ly. Genome se­quenc­ing is al­so be­ing done to de­tect the vari­ant. Near­ly 8,000 pas­sen­gers have been test­ed since Wednes­day.

‘Don’t de­lay in get­ting ful­ly vac­ci­nat­ed’

Dr Bal­ram Bhar­ga­va, head of the In­di­an Coun­cil of Med­ical Re­search, In­dia’s top med­ical re­search or­gan­i­sa­tion, urged peo­ple not to pan­ic and get vac­ci­nat­ed.

“In­creased vac­cine up­take is the need of the hour. Don’t de­lay in get­ting ful­ly vac­ci­nat­ed,” he said.

Dr Chan­drakant La­hariya, a health pol­i­cy ex­pert, said the fo­cus should be on find­ing the un­vac­ci­nat­ed and mak­ing sure they re­ceive shots.

“Some of the hes­i­tan­cy may dis­ap­pear on the news of the new vari­ant. But this can’t be tak­en for grant­ed,” he said.

Some In­di­an states have is­sued strict re­stric­tions on in­ter­na­tion­al ar­rivals as pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sures, in­clud­ing manda­to­ry COVID-19 tests for those com­ing from South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong.

More than 56 per­cent of In­di­ans have re­ceived at least one vac­cine dose – 32 per­cent are ful­ly vac­ci­nat­ed and 24 per­cent have re­ceived a sin­gle shot, ac­cord­ing to Our World In Da­ta.

LINK ORIGINAL: The Trinidad Guardian

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