Numbers rise but government cautiously optimistic on Omicron effect | India News
Official sources said that while preparations to tend to patients needing hospital care — as a result of a cumulatively higher number of cases — were on, evidence provided by domestic and global studies pointed to India’s expanding vaccination coverage and hybrid immunity delivering a high level of protection against serious disease.
The presence of Omicron in genome-sequenced samples in India has crossed 50%, indicating that the variant is rapidly replacing Delta as the dominant strain. Around 80% of Covid cases among international arrivals are of Omicron, pointing to its wide footprint. However, many cases being detected in India were due to contact tracing or testing due to travel plans, underlining that the infections are often asymptomatic.
While Omicron is certainly more potent than flus, it is being assessed if it will be the first step towards a milder form of the virus. Official sources said infections may not warrant shutdowns that derail a nascent economic recovery. It is being evaluated if the pandemic is moving towards endemicity — becoming a common, but milder ailment. In South Africa, Omicron cases began to rise around mid-November and came down in a month.
Studies of the Omicron variant’s action on human cells show it faces effective “blocks” due to immune response, warding off serious disease. Though Omicron has a high number of spike-protein mutations, they are clustered in three key functional areas of the virus. What Omicron gains in higher “escape” ability, it loses in terms of binding action on protein receptors as compared to Delta. And so while antibody strength is reduced, the Omicron spike is less potent, studies say.
“We see that the expected binding to the FCD (Furin cleavage domain) is at best the same as the alpha variant, and significantly less than the Delta variant,” says a recent paper on simulation studies on Omicron in biology pre-print publication BioRxiv.
A health ministry study of countries with a high number of cases shows daily deaths are higher in countries with lower vaccine coverage or where the vaccination drive has stalled. The US is recording an average of 1,777 daily deaths and a CFR of 1.54 and its vaccine coverage is 61% of the population. The figures for France with 80% vaccine coverage are better, with 184 daily deaths and 1.29 CFR, even as it records 2 lakh cases a day.
Though India’s two-dose coverage, in terms of population, is 42%, its double-dose coverage of eligible adults is 65%, and single shot is 90%. Several western nations are seeing a rise in infections due to a higher number of unvaccinated adults. Russia, for example, has recorded full vaccination of 44% of its population, and is registering 932 daily deaths and a CFR of 2.94. It has a significantly high number of unvaccinated adults.