MUMBAI: While the Omicron subvariant BA2 has caused a huge surge in South Korea- where over 6 lakh cases were detected in a single day— the United Kingdom and several other European countries, Indian experts are not worried about it triggering another wave in the country right away.
Their reasons include boosted immunity from the third wave that occurred between December 2021 and February and high vaccination coverage in most states. But, as Dr Subhash Salunkhe, former state director general of health services and state government’s technical adviser, put it: “We cannot lower our guard as the fourth wave is imminent in India like it has happened in the rest of the world.” Dr Salunkhe said, “The only thing that is unknown about the fourth wave is when exactly will it occur and how severe will it be.”
The Omicron variant with its 50-plus new mutations had raised severe concern across the world when it was first detected in South Africa in November 2021. It, though, soon became clear that the variant, though hyper transmissible, had not led to increased hospitalisations and deaths. Experts said this was due to vaccination, which protected against severe disease.
Mumbai was one of the first hotspots of Omicron in India, with single-day cases peaking at 20,971 on January 7. “Due to genome sequencing, we realised that both the Omicron variants BA1 and BA2 were in circulation here right at the beginning of the third wave,” said Dr Shashank Joshi, who is a member of the Maharashtra government’s task force on Covid-19.
Dr Joshi said there is no imminent threat of a fresh Covid wave in India. “The BA2 has been around in India. The new Israeli variant hasn’t yet been classified as a variant of concern (VoC). So, until a new VoC emerges, there is no reason to fear though we shouldn’t stop wearing a mask,” he said.
As antibodies wane, scientists believe the SARSCoV-2 virus can re-infect people.