Time to prepare for Omicron

Some of the states have announced night curfew in view of the threat of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus spreading in the country. This latest variant of Covid, which was first reported from South Africa, is considered to be highly infectious. There is fear that its spread might cause havoc in India. Maharashtra and Delhi have reported the highest numbers of cases of Omicron, followed by Telangana, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Kerala and Gujarat. With elections in states like UP and Punjab nearing, there is fear that this might lead to a massive rise in the number of cases. Election rallies are being held across UP, drawing massive crowds.

This needs to be immediately stopped. The Election Commission of India should look into it. The number of rallies and the number of people who can attend rallies should be minimized. Coming back to the fear of the spread of Omicron, India is in a much better position to deal with it than it was last year and even as recently as summer this year when the devastating second wave struck a body blow. Last year it appeared that vaccines would be the world’s passport out of the pandemic; it now seems that even a third dose is inadequate.

India is overwhelmingly dependent on a single vaccine in spite of two being produced here. None of the mRNA vaccines is available. The drug regulators are yet to clear vaccines for children and booster doses partly out of concern that this may trigger a shortfall. A good 40 percent of the adults – and they are still the most vulnerable to severe disease – are yet to be fully vaccinated. Crowds and public mingling are at pre-pandemic levels and the coming months will see huge crowds as part of election campaigning. The true impact of Omicron will be known over the next few weeks, but the Centre must continue to strike the gong of caution while facilitating greater availability of essential medicines, hospital beds and vaccines.