Monday, June 27News That Matters

Community transmission

The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG), a multi-laboratory, multi-agency, pan-India network that monitors genomic variations in the novel coronavirus, has announced that Omicron is now in community transmission in the country. The consortium has stated that further spread of Omicron is expected to be through internal transmission, not due to foreign travellers, adding that Covid-appropriate behaviour and vaccination are the main shields against all kinds of mutations of the virus.

Being a foregone conclusion, community transmission should not trigger panic or chaos as long as the fatality rate remains low. Instead, it has raised hope that the third wave of Covid-19 might peak sooner than later. As per a preliminary analysis by IIT Madras, the national peak is likely to come early next month, while other predictions say it may happen by mid-February. The developing scenario might prompt the Election Commission of India to consider extending the ban on physical rallies beyond January 31 in the five poll-bound states. While most Omicron cases so far have been asymptomatic or mild, the importance of home isolation and staying away from crowded public places cannot be overestimated.

With the next fortnight or so being crucial, the authorities should go all out to fast-track the vaccination drive. It was on January 10 that India started administering booster or precaution dose to healthcare workers, frontline workers and people aged above 60 (with comorbidities). In two weeks, over 80 lakh such doses have been given. This inoculation rate needs to be improved drastically. It’s also worrying that there are around 6 crore adults whose second dose is still overdue. Even as the Centre recently told the Supreme Court that there were no guidelines to force people to get vaccinated, it is imperative to assess the efficacy of national and state-level awareness campaigns and do course correction wherever required. Though it may be premature to say that the virus is on its last legs, major relief might be on the cards if it quickly runs its course through the bulk of the population, thus heralding herd immunity.

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