By Avinash Prabhakar
New Delhi, Jan 23 (IANS): Covid's Omicron variant is now in community transmission stage in India, the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) said in its latest bulletin on Sunday, noting become dominant in multiple metros, where new cases have been rising exponentially.
The centre's genome sequencing body has also said that an infectious sub-variant of Omicron BA.2 lineage has been reported in a considerable fraction in India.
Talking to IANS, Dr Niraj Nischal, Additional Professor of Medicine, AIIMS, said: "Omicron is more infectious compared to Delta variant, but it has a survival advantage as it is not causing severe illness among masses as delta did. The variant has more transmissibility but without leading to serious problems for majority of individuals.
"In due course, the variants are replaced always like Delta replaced the earlier variant and the Delta is expected to be replaced by Omicron."
However, he also added that it doesn't create any differences for masses as the treatment protocol remains the same. He said that genome sequencing is done only for public health management perspective to monitor for emergence of new dangerous variants as the treatment protocol is same for all variants so far.
The INSACOG has said that while most Omicron cases so far have been asymptomatic or mild, hospitalisations and ICU cases have been increasing in the current wave, and the threat level remains unchanged. "The recently reported B.1.640.2 lineage is being monitored. There is no evidence of rapid spread and while it has features of immune escape, it is currently not a variant of concern. So far, no case detected in India", the bulletin said.
Dr Anshuman Kumar, a Delhi-based cancer specialist, said: "Declaring the community transmission helps in strategy making to curb the infections. Community transmission is defined as the index virus infection is detected majorly in the individuals who don't have any travel history or any contact with the infected persons."
However, terming the Omicron community transmission declaration as illogical, Dr Kumar told IANS that there is no point to declare Omicron community transmission at this stage of time when the variant has already replaced the Delta variant in the country by over 80 per cent.
He said that if such declarations are made beforehand, the government gets time to make strategy and extensive planning to curb the rising infection, said Dr Kumar.
"Consider all cases Omicron now unless it is proved otherwise. If patient has lung symptoms or reducing oxygen levels, then it should be sent for genome sequencing to check whether it is Delta varaint because Omicron infection is common now," he said.
Dr Abhishek Shankar, Associate Professor, Department of Radiation Oncology, AIIMS Patna, said: "Omicron has already achieved peak in many of the states in India and they are on the path of recovery. India being a large country has always witnessed variation in the Covid statistics in different states. We have already seen the different timing of peak of 1st and 2nd wave in different states and 3rd wave is not an exception."
He added that unlike Delta wave, we are not expecting the fourth stage of pandemic for Omicron in view of affecting upper respiratory tract only. "Prevention with vaccination and maintaining hand and respiratory hygiene will be our best stand to fight Covid," he said.