“Global data and our own experience during the past five weeks reveal that the infection caused by Omicron is mostly either asymptomatic or mild.
Few seriously ill hospitalized patients either had other co-morbidities or are over 60 years of age. The overall hospitalization rate for people affected by Omicron is 1-2%, which is much less to the rate of people requiring care in hospital during the Covid wave caused by the Delta,” Dr N K Arora, chairman of the Covid-19 working group of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization, told TOI on Saturday.
“Over 80% of people in the country have been naturally infected by the virus. Over 91% adults have received at least one dose of anti-Covid vaccine, while more than 66% people aged above 18 years have received both the doses of the vaccine. Keeping all this in mind, the overall impact of the current surge of Covid cases is likely to be much less. There’s no need to panic. But we should remain vigilant and follow the Covid protocols,” he said.
With the country reporting 1.41 lakh new Covid infections in the past 24 hours and the active cases hovering around 4.8 lakh, the expert said the massive surge in the cases was indicative of the third wave. “But just like the increase in cases, a fall can also be expected in the areas reporting cases driven by Omicron,” Dr Arora said.
More than 50% of the fresh Omicron cases are being reported from major Indian cities. Data revealed that Maharashtra was leading the daily tally of Covid cases, closely followed by West Bengal, Delhi, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Kerala and Gujarat. Dr Arora said most of the cases were asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, just as it was observed in South Africa. He, however, emphasized that the people yet to be vaccinated should get the anti-Covid doses at the earliest and strictly follow the Covid-appropriate behaviour.
Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) additional director general Dr Samiran Panda told TOI that the active Covid curve would begin to flatten within three months in the areas recently registering the surge.
“For this, people have to abide by the Covid-appropriate beahviour and protocols, and act appropriately. The projection that we have generated so far through the modelling exercise shows that if Omicron is the dominant variant of the virus in an area, the surge in infections will sharply go upwards and fall in three months,” he said.
“The major metropolitan areas in the counry have Omicron as the major variant of Covid. But in areas such as the northeast, it is more of the Delta variant that is causing stress on the health system. The country does not have a homogenous representation of the epidemic and states have to ready specific actions after critically analyzing their respective data,” Dr Panda said.
Dr Lalit Kant, another public health expert and infectious disease epidemiologist and senior adviser at Ashoka University, told TOI, “Two things are notable about the Omicron variant. It is more infectious and transmissible than the Delta variant. Prior infection provides poor protection in Omicron cases. The number of severe Omicron cases needing hospitalization is around one-fourth of the Delta variant infections.”
He said, “The focus should now be on patient care and stress should be on tele-consultation centres. Experience from other countries shows that it takes around 4-6 weeks for the Omicron cases to reach the peak, and then there is a sharp fall. Accordingly, if we witness a peak of Omicron cases in early February, the surge may be over by the middle of March.”