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“Omicron Not Common Cold”: Centre Counters Its Epidemiologist


India is seeing a surge in Covid across the country

New Delhi:

Omicron is not common cold and it is a misconception that is spreading, the government’s top Covid adviser VK Paul said today, a day after the country’s top epidemiologist called Omicron infections as mild as a cold and said everybody would likely catch it.

“Omicron is not common cold. We are seeing this misconception spreading; it’s our responsibility to slow it down. Let’s mask up and get vaccinated, whoever is due,” said Dr Paul, who heads the Covid Task Force.

“It’s a fact that vaccines are helpful to an extent. Vaccination is a critical pillar of our Covid response,” he added while briefing reporters.

Yesterday, a top epidemiologist at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Jayaprakash Muliyil, argued that rules so far to tackle the pandemic needed a complete relook as Omicron was a far milder variant than Delta and not frightening.

“The consequence of a viral infection now is just like a cold. We have to recognise that we have been chasing a particular kind of objective so far,” said Dr Muliyil, epidemiologist and chairperson, Scientific Advisory Committee at ICMR’s National Institute of Epidemiology.

When it was pointed out that Omicron symptoms are far more severe and the demand for oxygen beds had increased since the new variant started racing through the population, he said that the infection was almost unstoppable and highly infectious, but a “majority will not know they are infected”.

“It is so much more infectious than Delta, but the consequences are different. Fewer will be hospitalised. It is not a frightening disease anymore. Omicron is a disease you can deal with. A change of mindset is needed. How long can we have fear looming over us?” Dr Muliyil said.

India is seeing a surge in Covid across the country. Kolkata’s positivity rate is a staggering 60%; Mumbai’s positivity rate is at 27% and Delhi and Chennai are at 23%.

“Clearly, Omicron variant is dominating right now,” Dr Paul said as he urged people to take Omicron seriously and warned it could badly hit health care systems.

In Europe, Omicron is seen as the beginning of the end of the pandemic.

The spread of the Omicron variant is pushing Covid towards being an endemic disease that humanity can live with, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on Tuesday.

“With the increase of immunity in population — and with Omicron, there will be a lot of natural immunity taking place on top of vaccination — we will be fast moving towards a scenario that will be closer to endemicity,” Marco Cavaleri, head of vaccine strategy at the Amsterdam-based regulator, told journalists.

But he stressed that “we should not forget we are still in a pandemic”.



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