Hyderabad: Omicron driven Covid infections are going to sharply rise in the coming weeks because it has already entered our country and is highly infectious. There may not be enough testing at the moment because many cases might be mild and asymptomatic and not getting attention.
“It is expected to spread quickly but fortunately because of multiple reasons, Omicron may not result in a major wave of severe illness,” says Dr K Srinath Reddy, president of Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI).
The noted public health official said that despite a rise in Omicron infections, severe illness leading to hospitalisation and deaths may not be at the same level as the second wave. The senior cardiologist pointed out that the impact of the omicron variant will be visible in the next 2 to 3 weeks and cases will rise in January, which will attract attention.
“Many people have been infected in the second wave and might have retained some immunity. Moreover, about 82 per cent of eligible people in India have been vaccinated and they might also have some immunity. The Omicron virus itself is supposed to be relatively mild,” Dr Srinath Reddy said.
Given these facts, one could see a large number of cases. But the actual number of cases could be under-reported because many people might not get tested because they might have mild body aches and cold and may not even go for testing, he said.
The requirement of hospitalisation will be less and those hospitalised also may not require oxygen support. “Even if some people require oxygen, ventilator use may be very little because Omicron is not penetrating into the lungs that much. Secondly, home care requirement will be much more,” Dr Srinath Reddy pointed out.
“The likelihood is that Omicron will replace Delta in India because that’s what is happening in other countries. We will see a lot of Omicron cases coming up but genome testing is vital because the Delta variant is still around in some pockets of India,” he said.
The public health official pointed out that there is ample evidence of Omicron causing vaccine related reinfections. “There is no doubt about this fact. But, fortunately, most of them are not severe and there is at least partial protection,” he pointed out.
Despite the expected sharp rise in Covid infections, people should not panic and continue to take precautions. “If we wear a mask properly, whether it is Delta or Omicron, it will not enter into the body.
Masks can act as a shield or a wall against the virus. We must do our best to avoid crowded areas and unventilated locations where virus proliferates easily,” he added.