3rd Wave Omicron variant of Coronavirus India-WHO updates

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On 26 November 2021, WHO designated variant B.1.1.529 a variant of concern, named Omicron Variant, on the advice of WHO’s Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution (TAG-VE).  This decision was based on the evidence presented to the TAG-VE that Omicron has several mutations that may have an impact on how it behaves, for example, on how easily it spreads or the severity of illness it causes. Here is a summary of what is currently known.  

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About Omicron 

Researchers in South Africa and around the world are conducting studies to better understand many aspects of Omicron and will continue to share the findings of these studies as they become available.  

Will Omicron variant cause third wave in India?

Omicron: India reports first cases of new Covid variant

Two men in the southern Indian state of Karnataka have tested positive for the Omicron coronavirus variant.

One of them, a 66-year-old South African national, had traveled from there and has already left India, officials said. The second – a 46-year-old doctor in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru – has no travel history. These are the first cases of the new Omicron variant to be reported in India. The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that Omicron poses a “high infection risk”.

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Omicron scare: India’s new rules for international travelers starting December

Key details from December 1, India is instituting new rules for arriving international passengers. There are separate protocols for passengers from ‘at risk’ countries under the new norms, so far.

Union ministry of health and family welfare along with The World Health Organization (WHO) released a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs).

How did Omicron become a ‘variant of concern’ and how is it detected?

Omicron, 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. 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 remain 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.

“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.

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Recommended Actions For People-WHO

The most effective steps individuals can take to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus is to keep a physical distance of at least 1 meter from others; wear a well-fitting mask; open windows to improve ventilation; avoid poorly ventilated or crowded spaces; keep hands clean; cough or sneeze into a bent elbow or tissue, and get vaccinated when it’s their turn.  

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