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Third wave is here: Are we ready?

Omicron cases could overwhelm hospitals
Last Updated : 05 January 2022, 20:15 IST

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The country is likely witnessing another surge of Covid-19, leading to a third wave of the disease. If it had recorded 6,641 cases between December 19 and 25, the next week, between December 25 and January 2, saw 18,290 cases, which marked a nearly three-fold rise. Since then, there is a big increase in the number of cases even on a daily basis. More than 58,000 fresh cases have been reported from across the country in the last 24 hours. As in the case of the second wave, many cases may be going unreported, too. Some parts of the country such as Maharashtra and the big metropolises are recording higher numbers because there may be more people returning from abroad and there are better testing facilities and practices there. Cases are increasing at a fast pace in Karnataka and Bengaluru also.

The present surge is led by Omicron, which accounts for 50% of the fresh cases in the metropolises. It is more transmissible than the earlier Covid variant, though it is also considered to be less lethal. Though the hospitalisation rate may be lower, there is likely to be more hospital admissions because of the increase in the absolute number of cases. The ability of the new variant to evade defence mechanisms may also increase the number of fresh cases. Delhi’s hospitals have already started feeling the pressure. Since there is a higher risk of disease surge, there is the need to urgently improve hospital infrastructure and facilities. In this context, it is disappointing to note that the states had collectively utilised only 17% of the Rs 23,123 crore emergency package approved by the Centre in August to ramp up medical infrastructure. They should ensure that there is no repetition of the terrible second wave situation of shortage of beds, ICUs and oxygen.

Some states have started taking restrictive measures. But strengthening the defences and improving medical facilities is a better strategy to fight the disease than imposing restrictions on the movement of people. Such restrictions have high economic and social costs. Notwithstanding questions about the efficacy of vaccines against Omicron, the vaccination drive should continue. More importantly, there should be strict adherence to the Covid protocol of social distancing, wearing of masks, and handwashing. Neglect and complacence can lead to the situation going out of hand. Governments and political parties should keep this in mind as the election campaign will gather steam in five states in the coming weeks. Experts are of the view that the next six to eight weeks may see the surging and peaking of a new wave in the country. We need to be prepared to deal with it.

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Published 05 January 2022, 16:56 IST

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