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India might see 14 lakh Covid-19 cases daily if it witnesses a UK-like spike: Niti Aayog’s VK Paul

New Delhi: The spread of Omicron variant of COVID-19 across the world is causing worry among health experts. Omicron, which was first reported from South Africa last month, has spread to now at least 77 countries, including the US, UK Israel, Hong Kong and Japan, apart from India.

VK Paul, Member-Health, Niti Aayog, at a Health Ministry press briefing on COVID-19, said that Europe is witnessing a new phase of COVID-19 pandemic, with a steep rise in coronavirus cases.

“A new phase of the Covid-19 pandemic is being experienced in Europe with a steep rise in cases.” Delta and Omicron together are fuelling the spike and this despite the fact that many of these countries are largely vaccinated with both doses, Dr Paul said.

The United Kingdom is especially seeing a massive surge. On Friday (December 17), the British government reported 93,045 new coronavirus cases. This was the third consecutive day when the UK broke its own record in daily tally.

So what does this indicate for India? Dr VK Paul had worrying statistics to share. “If we look at the scale of spread in the UK and if there is a similar outbreak in India, then given our population, there will be 14 lakh cases every day.”

About genome sequencing, Dr Paul said that sequencing of every sample is not possible. “It is a surveillance and pandemic assessment and tracking tool, not a diagnostic tool as of now.”

However, according to initial studies, it seems that while Omicron is significantly more infectious than the Delta variant, that led to a havoc in India earlier this year, it is causing less severe symptoms. But experts have also pointed out that it’s too early to say something definitive on the matter. The vaccine efficacy against the new variant is also being studied

In a briefing on the present situation of Covid and new variant Omicron in the country, Indian Council of Medical Research Director General Balram Bhargava said that it is very important to have low-intensity festivities and avoid non-essential travel and mass gatherings.

Joint Secretary, Health, Luv Agrawal, said that new Covid cases are being reported below 10,000 for the past 20 days. The case positivity for the last 1 week was 0.65 per cent. Currently, Kerala contributes 40.31 per cent to the total number of active cases in the country, he said.

India is administering Covid-19 vaccine doses at the highest rate in the world and the daily rate of doses administered is 4.8 times the rate of doses administered in the US and 12.5 times the rate of doses administered in the UK, he said.

On new Covid variant, he said that a total of 101 Omicron cases across 11 states have been reported so far.

“There is no evidence to suggest that vaccines are not effective against Omicron variant,” he said, adding that it is likely that Omicron will outpace Delta variant where community transmission occurs as per a WHO report.