Spurt in COVID-19 cases: J&K on the onset of third wave

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Recent surge in cases has pattern akin to Omicron variant: Dr M S Khuroo

Srinagar, Jan 08: The recent surge in Covid-19 cases in the Jammu and Kashmir could be likely due to the new variant Omicron and the regions may be on the onset of an impending third wave of COVID-19, Dr M S Khuroo said on Saturday.

In an exclusive interview, Dr M S Khuroo Renowned Gastroenterologist and Chairman Covid advisory Committee Jammu and Kashmir told the news agency that seeing the pattern of recent sudden sharp rise of COVID-19 cases, there are high chances that J&K may be on the onset of an impending third wave of COVID-19.

On the case of three cases of Omicron confirmed in J&K, Khuroo said that they have received data of genomic sequencing of samples collected several weeks before.

“Genomic sequencing of samples collected during the recent sharp surge of cases will define the actual nature of the possible impending third wave,” he said.

He said that we have experienced a massive second COVID-19 wave of late and the effects of the delta wave have largely subsided in the country.

“The recent surge of cases in many metropolitan cities in our country has been shown to be due to Omicron and this variant is fast replacing the delta variant due to its subtle advantages in epidemiological features. The results of genomic sequencing of the samples of course will be needed to find the situation in J&K,” he said.

He said that the Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is four times more transmissible than the Delta variant of the virus.

“In addition, it has a potential to infect persons who have recovered from an attack of COVID-19 and who have received one or two doses of the vaccine. Thus, this virus has a potential to evade the immune system of the body, may be due to infection or vaccination,” he said.

Khuroo said people who have this immunity due to infection or vaccine may be protected only from 30 to 60 percent when compared to Delta variant.

Apart from higher transmissibility and evasion of immunity, the Omicron variant has a shorter incubation period and infects selectively upper respiratory tract (nose and throat) rather than lungs. Thus, the disease particularly in those immunized may be milder and chances of hospitalization, intensive care management and death are less than delta,” he said.

“While this may be a good in itself for overall management of the third COVID-19 wave, however, the share number of cases due to enhanced transmissibility may dampen this effect and healthcare and hospitals can yet come under pressure at the peak of the third wave,” Khuroo said.

Khuroo said the virus infects healthcare workers and doctors as they are frontline persons exposed to the agent and during a wave, a significant percent of healthcare workers and doctors may be ‘off-sick’ and put pressure on the health services.

“So much is being talked about the booster (third dose) of the vaccine. Yes, the immunity of the person who is double vaccinated or has had COVID-19 in the past starts a progressive decline in immunity and immunity is significantly low around five to six months post vaccination. In such persons a booster dose will enhance immune response and improve the chances of protection against Omicron,” he said.

Khuroo said the Government of India has advised on the use of booster dose in healthcare workers, doctors, and elderly above 60 with comorbid diseases.

“Children are often infected with this variant and this may be related to the fact that they have not been vaccinated in the past. A recent advisory to vaccinate children from 15 onwards is a welcome step. Next would be to vaccinate children from lower age groups and would be watched with great interest,” he said.

“I request people to follow Covid appropriate behavior in letter and spread and avoid close door meetings and large gatherings besides use proper masks,” he said. “We are onset of an impending third wave and we will know exactly about it in the next five to seven days.”