With two confirmed cases and several more suspects of Omicron in India so far, the government has ramped up all measures to contain the worrisome coronavirus variant from spreading further.
However, this has not stopped the growing anxiety among citizens after having witnessed the devastation caused by the Delta variant during the second wave of coronavirus pandemic.
To keep fears at bay, the Union ministry of health and family welfare along with The World Health Organization (WHO) released a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs).
Here are five key questions answered:
How did Omicron become a ‘variant of concern’ and how is it detected?
Omicron, the latest known coronavirus variant, first reported in southern Africa in November, has shown a “very high” rate of mutation.
“Given the collection of mutations in Omicron, which earlier individually have been associated with increased infectivity and/or immune evasion, and the sudden rise in the number of positive cases in South Africa, World Health Organization has declared Omicron as a Variant of Concern (VoC),” the Centre said.
Omicron variant is detected using the most accepted testing method for SARS-CoV-2, that is, the RT-PCR method, followed by genome sequencing for final confirmation.
What precautions should be taken?
Measures to prevent Covid-19 infection with Omicron remains the same as previous strains – wearing a mask properly, taking both doses of Covid-19 vaccine, social distancing and maintaining ventilation to the maximum possible.
Are existing vaccines effective against Omicron?
“There is no evidence to suggest that existing vaccines do not work on Omicron,” the Centre noted, dismissing speculations that vaccination is ineffective against the latest variant of the coronavirus.
While studies show the new strain can cause reinfection among vaccinated citizens, the government said that “vaccines are expected to still offer protection against severe disease and, vaccination with the available vaccines is crucial”.
Is the third wave likely soon?
South Africa has declared the fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic with the emergence of the Omicron variant.
However, the government has said, “given the fast pace of vaccination in India and high exposure to Delta variant as evidenced by high seropositivity, the severity of the disease is anticipated to be low”.
“Omicron cases are increasingly being reported from countries outside of South Africa and given its characteristics, it is likely to spread to more countries including India,” the health ministry also said.
How is India responding to the Omicron outbreak?
The Centre, with the help of the scientific and medical community, is monitoring the situation closely and issuing guidelines from time to time to avoid another surge of infections.