‘We are in the third wave, Omicron cases spreading rapidly’

India is already witnessing the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Dr N K Arora, chairman of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.

“In Metro cities, when cases of Omicron were detected in December last year, we sequenced isolates of Covid patients for genomic structure. Last week, 84 per cent cases in Delhi were of Omicron variant. Similarly, in other places, 60-75 per cent of the isolates are of Omicron variant. Overall in the country, it was 28 per cent last week and it is increasing rapidly,” Dr Arora told The Indian Express.

The active Covid-19 caseload in India currently stands at 1.71 lakh cases and the weekly positivity rate is 2.05%, according to data from the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. A total of 1,892 cases of Omicron variant of SARS-CoV2 virus have been detected across 23 states and union territories so far, according to the Union Health Ministry’s data on Tuesday.

In view of the high transmissibility of this variant, there is a need for strict enforcement of Covid-appropriate behaviour, said Health Ministry officials.

States and union territories have been advised to procure logistical supplies like testing reagents and kits (both RT-PCR and rapid antigen tests) to avoid stock shortages in case of increase in number of cases.

Omicron has two sub-lineages – 70 per cent is picked up as ‘S Gene’ drop out and the remaining is not picked up. According to experts, while RT-PCR tests confirm the presence of Covid-19, the variant is identified through genome sequencing and S-gene target failure. The missing S gene is an indicator for the variant. Surveillance strategies, therefore, are important, said Dr Arora. “Omicron spreads very rapidly and several times faster than Delta. Gradually, Omicron cases are going to rise and genomic sequencing for each Covid-19 patient may not be required,” he said.

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