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Wednesday, May 11, 2022

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Drop in masks use has put India in peril zone: Govt

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With a number of international locations in Europe reporting a brand new surge in Covid-19 instances and Omicron rising as a extremely transmissible variant, the federal government warned Friday that India has “entered the danger zone” with masks utilization within the nation dropping to ranges under the pre-second wave.

The authorities mentioned 25 instances of Omicron have been detected to date within the nation. According to out there knowledge on medical signs, 9 instances have been symptomatic and 14 asymptomatic. The authorities mentioned 9 of those individuals didn’t have overseas travel historical past.

Significantly, the info exhibits that 14 individuals detected with Omicron in India have been totally vaccinated, indicating breakthrough infections attributable to the brand new variant — Covishield (8), Pfizer (5) and, Sinovac (1).

Dr V Ok Paul, head of India’s Covid-19 activity pressure, mentioned the efficacy of vaccines in opposition to the brand new Omicron variant continues to be being examined. He, nevertheless, emphasised that masks utilization “is a universal and social vaccine which is effective against any variant”.

“I would like to draw your attention to a reality check, on an assessment of the mask usage presently going on in our country. This comes from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation which does these estimates for several countries. Just before the second surge, mask usage was at a low level. When the cases started to rise dramatically in May, we all responded, and everyone started to wear masks out of fear,” he mentioned.

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The activity pressure chief’s warning comes at a time when Europe and components of the US are reporting a surge in Covid instances and Omicron has emerged as a transmissible variant. Underlining using masks, the federal government is looking for vigilance, saying the virus can throw surprises.

“In August, we saw a decline. And in December, we have again gone back to the same position. According to this estimate, it has in fact declined even further compared to the March levels. In a way, we have entered the danger zone. Technically speaking, from a protection capability point of view, we are now operating at a low level. This is an unacceptable level. It is a risky level,” he mentioned.

While India is at the moment reporting a decline in instances, Paul flagged the emergence of 70 clusters of Covid-19 instances. “We should keep in mind that the country is witnessing a cluster of cases. Approximately, we have seen 70 such clusters. We are investigating them… and found that it is still caused due to the Delta variant. This is why both doses of vaccination are very important. There is no need to panic, but we need to be vigilant,” he mentioned.

“Before the second surge, we were at the same level (of mask usage). Suddenly, the situation changed. It was collective complacency. It cost us a lot. We are again warning that time has still not come to discard mask usage. Both vaccines and masks are a must,” he mentioned.

Paul’s warning got here within the backdrop of a sudden surge in instances throughout Europe and components of the US. “The global scenario, especially on Omicron and R0, is very disturbing. The UK is reporting 700 cases per million population. This is almost twice what we experienced earlier this year. This is not a small number. It is due to Delta, but Omicron is also contributing. France is also seeing a surge. The US is witnessing 4-5 lakh cases per day. We have to learn from the global situation. The virus can throw surprises. Therefore, we need to be vigilant. And the mask is a universal and social vaccine which is effective against any variant,” he mentioned.

ICMR chief Dr Balram Bhargava mentioned India will quickly start testing of Covaxin and Covishield in opposition to Omicron. “We have at this moment, in India, seen 25 cases of Omicron. NIV Pune has got samples from these individuals. We are trying to grow the virus… inoculate it in the culture medium, so that it grows. Once we grow the virus, we will be able to test in the laboratory. And then we will test the efficacy of both Covaxin and Covishield. The work has started and we are trying multiple cultures to grow the virus,” he mentioned.

Bhargava mentioned clinically, Omicron will not be but posing a burden on the healthcare system. “However, the vigil has to be maintained. Regular meetings are being organised to keep a watch on global scenarios. District-level restrictions are to be implemented where test positivity is more than 5 per cent. Also, scientific evidence for diagnosis and treatment are being reviewed. The treatment remains unchanged at the moment,” he mentioned.

He mentioned whereas India continues to be analyzing the difficulty of administering booster doses, the present knowledge exhibits that antibody response persists for over 9 months after vaccination.

“There are three aspects of vaccine efficacy: antibody response, cellular immunity and mucosal immunity. To measure cellular immunity and mucosal immunity is tough, expensive and time-consuming. But we can measure antibody response. That data has shown that vaccines are still effective after nine months to a year. This depends on the type of vaccines,” Bhargava mentioned.

“Even if the antibody response falls, the vaccines are still effective. It also varies from individual to individual. But we have seen that antibody response persists even after a year in many people, after the infection. Extrapolating that, we can say it is for nine months. Right now, cellular immunity and mucosal immunity persist. We can still have protection,” he mentioned.

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