This article has been medically reviewed and fact-checked by Dr Nikita Toshi.
Around the world, more people continue to get vaccinated and settle down into a life of normalcy which is helping us to shield ourselves from the various strains and cope with the new challenges in the post-pandemic era. The discovery of a new variant has raised many new questions as well as concerns amongst the general public. We’re talking, of course, about Omicron.
Read on to find out more about the latest news around the world and in India regarding Omicron and the situation so far.
Omicron Situation in India – Total Cases and Measures taken
States vs. Total Cases
Total active Omicron cases in India: 9692
- Recent Measures Taken
The Government has started a new vaccination drive as a precautionary measure for teens aged 15-18 years, frontline workers and senior citizens (3rd dose) from January 3rd 2022. The vaccine that is being administered to the teens with emergency usage approval is the indigenously developed Covaxin from Bharat Biotech.
Lockdown in India?
So, while many people may be getting nerve-wracked over the possibility of another lockdown, till now, there seems to be no mention of that from the Health Ministry. Many states have implemented restrictions and weekend curfews. For e.g, Delhi was earlier functioning with a ‘yellow alert’ restriction in which institutions, gyms, theatres and all shops selling non-essential items were to remain closed but currently, has gone in for weekend curfews.
Similarly, the city of Kolkata has announced 44 containment zones and a complete halt of international flights flying in and out of Kolkata to London and other ‘high risk’ cities around the world. On the domestic front, staggered flights (only on Monday and Friday) are to operate between Kolkata to Delhi and Mumbai and vice versa.
Further, a statewide lockdown has been announced in Tamil Nadu on January 23rd in view of the rapid spread of the virus.
Omicron Situation Around The World – Total Cases, Measures
The possibility of lockdowns in the world does not seem highly likely in the next few weeks but for now, the global situation stands as follows:
- South Africa is the origin country of the new variant. The discovery was accompanied by a rise in total cases of COVID-19 around the country. This may or may not be Omicron, further data is needed. While the nation has seen a steep rise in COVID-19 cases over the last weeks, about 75% of those are of the Omicron variant. Higher case numbers seem to be accompanied by lower hospitalisation rates, possibly due to vaccination efforts. The country plans on riding the fourth wave without increasing its lockdown restrictions, which remain at their lowest level to date.
- In Europe, over 7 million Omicron cases have been reported to date with countries like the UK and Denmark are leading the way with genomic testing, confirmed Omicron infection cases stand at 218, 724 and 56, 000 respectively. Citing reports from Statens Serum Institut, reporters have announced that Denmark has registered 18 deaths from the Omicron variant. Currently, no European countries have announced lockdown measures just yet. However, travel restrictions have been tightened, especially for cross-border travel. In Belgium, people have been asked to work from home only. In Italy, people who are not vaccinated have been banned from engaging in social/leisure activities. Germany has similar restrictions on unvaccinated people, with public life being severely restricted.
- As of 19th January 2022, the USA has recorded the new variant in all 50 states but Dr Vivek Murthy, a general surgeon has alerted the population saying that the Omicron variant was yet to seek its peak there and the next few weeks were going to be crucial. There are no known lockdown measures in the country, although most states still have strict restrictions against public gatherings and have reiterated the absolute need for wearing masks when venturing out.
- Israel from December 2021 started offering a fourth shot known as a second booster to provide protection to immunocompromised and ‘high risk’ individuals.
- An upcoming law in France is about to make it mandatory to present a recently taken negative test report before accessing public places such as bars, gyms, restaurants, cultural institutions, airports, train stations and so on.
Who’s At Risk?
There does not seem to be any particular demographic that is most at risk for getting infected by the new variant. However, almost all the initial data points towards Omicron being more transmissible.
In a study released by Nature, the reason why the Omicron variant has such a high transmission rate is due to its ability to bypass SARS CoV-2 immunity either caused by natural immunity or past infection or vaccination. In the same study, it was stated this strain does not have a heavy viral load, it is either similar to the Delta variant or lesser, this is the reason why it was able to replace the earlier (Delta) strain so quickly.
As per WHO statements earlier, people who were infected previously might have a higher risk of getting the Omicron variant. But, this data may change as more studies are carried out over the next few weeks.
People with other comorbidities and weaker immunity may be at a higher risk.
Also Read: Omicron Variant and Vaccine Efficacy
World Health Organisation Updates on Omicron
- As per statements made recently, WHO confirmed that so far 128 countries have reported confirmed cases of Omicron.
- In the official written statement released on 28th November, the WHO outlined everything about the situation stating that this variant was first detected in South Africa. Other than the possibility of reinfection and a higher rate of transmission, no other information has come forth.
- The WHO emphasizes the need to pursue wide coverage of vaccines wherever possible to reduce the likelihood of severe disease and fatalities.
- As of now, it is still too early to know whether Omicron has more or less severity than the existing variants. Similarly, we do not also know if it has an increased rate of hospitalisation.
- For nations, the WHO once again is calling for scaling up systems that are in place, for detection of new variants and to strengthen our ability to fight them.
Although it is still in the early stages, most nations and the WHO does not foresee any reason to stop using the existing vaccine. The goal has always been and continues to be a reduction in critical cases and lower death rates. Experts around the world have come to the conclusion that the Omicron variant will see its peak in February and by the end of the month it will taper off gradually. Currently, the month of January requires extreme caution as the infection is spreading fast. Apart from keeping social distance and avoiding crowded spaces the WHO recommends keeping up vaccination drives. For now, we need to wait and watch and keep calm without relaxing on standard pandemic protocols.
Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.