As the world was heaving a sigh of relief from Coronavirus, a new variant Omicron, said to be deadly, traced in South Africa, again triggers fear across the globe. The WHO has raised serious concern over the variant, noting an increased risk of re-infection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs.
With the new deadly variant in focus, majority of the countries would be at a dilemma, a question of another series of lockdowns and curbs. Well, no country could afford to go for another lockdown that has already shattered the lives of people and the economy of Countries. India is also no exception.
NO LOOKING BACK AT LOCKDOWN
India can never think of going back to the lockdown days again. In the last two years, the country saw a dip in its economy except in some sectors. Lakhs of people lost their jobs, several of them forced to work in meagre salary, small and medium business shattered and a whole lot of sectors was having a harrowing time. The common and the poor suffered the most with no money and even no food to feed the family; the society at large suffered the worst.
People breathed a sigh of relief as lockdowns were lifted. Normal life was making a comeback when they hear of another deadly one and no way can the people afford to bear another economic and human distress. Most of the people say they had enough of the restrictions and cannot stay back further; these people cannot be blamed as the assistance provided by the governments has its limitations.
After the WHO sent an alarm across about Omicron, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a detailed discussion with the officials. He asked the people to be more cautious and take proper precautions like masking and social distancing. He also highlighted the need to monitor and test international arrivals. Apart from this, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan had written to the Additional Chief Secretary (Health) of all States and UTs warning them of new Covid-19 variant cases. “This variant is reported to have a significantly high number of mutations, and thus, has serious public health implications for the country, in view of recently relaxed visa restrictions and opening up of international travel,” the letter read.
According to the WHO, the new variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. “The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa,” it said.
VACCINATION AND MASKING
With India in no position to afford another lockdown or any further restrictions, the country needs to speed up its vaccination programme. Though India has crossed the billion-mark vaccination, there is still a wide gap. Estimates note that only less than 40 per cent of the people have been fully vaccinated though 80 per cent of the adults have taken the first dose of vaccine. And more, the concern is that vaccination for children is yet to begin. The Centre as well as the State governments should take urgent steps to gets its entire population covered under the vaccine.
In the wake of new variant, the Centre should have a close mechanism with the state governments for tracking and monitoring the deadly virus. Apart from this, the Centre should also provide enough funds to the states. The governments should also encourage more testing and come up with added testing facilities. More awareness, especially among the rural and the vulnerable, on precautions should be taken be up urgently.
More than anything, it is the people who should be cautious. Nothing is achieved if the people are not vigilant. As Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization, stresses, “masks are the vaccines in your pocket”, be masked always. Mask and fight the new variant.