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Delhi docs say close monitoring of new variants is their top priority

IANS | September 17, 2023 12:04 PM

NEW DELHI: Amid reports of cases of the new Omicron sub-variants BA.2.86 (Pirola) and EG. 5.1 (Eris) in several countries, experts here on Friday expressed concern over the new variants and emphasized continuous monitoring in the country.

"The Covid-19 pandemic is not a threat anymore for most of the world, but the virus has re-entered some countries in the form of two new variants – BA.2.86 (Pirola) and EG.5.1 (Eris). BA.2.86 is considered to be more infectious than the previous variants. EG.5.1 is spreading quickly, but it’s no more dangerous than previous
versions, " Dr Vijay Kumar Gurjar, Senior Consultant and HOD-Internal Medicine, Primus Super Specialty Hospital, New Delhi, told IANS.

Citing that these variants have already shown up around the world, including in the US and the UK, he, however, stated that it would be too early to say that the world is facing a new wave.

Referring to India, Gurjar said, "For India, the country has fought several variants in a span of three years. The government has advised people to take proper precautions and get vaccinated. The new variants can be a threat to India if international travel is not closely monitored and proper measures are not taken. "

The previous waves in the country have shown that traveling can cause a spike in cases, so it should be monitored, he said.

He added, "As far as vaccine readiness is concerned, India has comparatively better vaccine coverage than before but recent reports have shown that the country's Covid vax rate has fallen 75 per cent since April. This means, far fewer Indians are getting vaccinated than at the beginning of the financial year."

"So, the fall in vaccination rate is a matter of concern, especially amid an uptick in hospitalizations and deaths in the US and UK due to the new variants, " he told IANS.

Dr Shuchin Bajaj, Founder and Director Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals, told IANS, "The global spread of Covid-19, especially in the UK, Europe, and Asia, remains a concern for India. Variants of the virus can potentially enter the country, necessitating continued vigilance and monitoring."

"The possibility of another severe wave in India depends on various factors, including vaccination coverage, public compliance with safety measures, and the behaviour of the virus, " he said.

He stressed on the importance of wearing masks, vaccination, and surveillance to prevent future waves.

"The future of Covid-19 and potential pandemics is a subject of ongoing research and concern. Indian experts are collaborating globally to enhance preparedness and response capabilities to tackle not only Covid-19 but also future infectious diseases, " Bajaj told IANS.

According to the latest update issued by the Health Ministry on Friday, as many as 60 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in India during the past 24 hours, taking the country's total caseload to 4, 49, 98, 035.

Active cases stand at 541. The death toll is 5, 32, 029.

As per the Ministry, more than 220.67 crore doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered so far.

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