Srinagar: In view of the rising Omicron cases across the country, the health experts in Kashmir have advised people to be vigilant and follow Covid appropriate behaviour.
Kashmir like other parts of India has seen different facets of coronavirus for the last two years. This time, the latest variant of concern, Omicron, is known to cause panic among people given its high infection rate.
However, the variant is yet to enter the valley and has been detected in the union territory of Jammu so far. Amid this looming threat, The Kashmir Monitor spoke to the valley-based doctors to understand the severity of the virus and the precautions to be taken.
What is the omicron variant?
WHO has designated the COVID-19 Omicron variant as a variant of concern due to evidence that it contains several mutations that may affect how it behaves.
Community Medicine Specialist, Dr Sheikh Mohammad Saleem said, “There is still a lot of uncertainty about Omicron, and there is a lot of research being done to determine its transmissibility, severity, and risk of reinfection.”
Is it more severe?
Lecturer Government Medical College, Srinagar, Dr Suhail Naik emphasised that early evidence suggests that Omicron is less severe than Delta, but more research is needed, and WHO warns that it should not be dismissed as “mild.”
“Studies are being conducted, and this information may be updated as new information becomes available. It is important to remember that all COVID-19 variants, including the Delta variant, can cause severe disease or death, which is why preventing the virus’s spread and lowering your risk of infection are so important,” Dr Suhail said.
Do you think the variant will lead to the same surge in cases like we had in the second wave ?
Community Medicine Specialist Dr Sheikh Mohammad Saleem asserted that every variant has the potential to surge and cause increased morbidity and mortality among the people. Many people are predicting a peak of the third wave, though they appear to be convinced that it will be milder.
“What will help the virus to spread? No doubt, we humans will help spread it. The surge in the cases equally depends on the virus virulence as well as the human factors associated with it. I believe, if we control and follow Covid Appropriate Behaviour strictly over these months, we can surely overcome this wave as well,” he said.
Professor of Surgery, GMC Srinagar, Dr Iqbal Saleem said it’s difficult to say whether Omicron will lead to the surge in cases like in Second Covid wave.
“That said, it has been seen that the inherent immunity in the under developed countries is helping to keep death rate under check, ” he said.
What are the do’s and don’ts to keep Omicron at bay?
Dr Suhail said the most important thing we can do is reduce our chances of being infected with the virus. Make the following precautions to protect yourself and your loved ones:
• Cover your nose and mouth with a mask. When putting on and removing your mask, make sure your hands are clean.
• Maintain a physical distance of at least one metre between yourself and others.
• Avoid places that are poorly ventilated or crowded.
• Open windows to improve indoor ventilation.
• Regularly wash your hands.
• Get vaccinated when it’s your turn. COVID-19 vaccines approved by WHO are both safe and effective.
What is the effectiveness of vaccines against it?
Dr Saleem said researchers are investigating the impact of the Omicron variant on the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines.
“Although information is still limited, there may be a slight decrease in the effectiveness of vaccines against severe illness and death, as well as a decrease in the effectiveness of vaccines in preventing mild disease and infection. However, according to WHO, the currently available vaccines appear to provide significant protection against severe disease and death,” he said.
He noted it is also critical to be immunised in order to protect against other widely circulating variants, such as the Delta one.
“When it’s your turn, make sure you’re up to date on your immunizations. If your vaccination requires two doses, it is critical that you receive both to ensure maximum protection,” Dr Saleem said.