With metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata accounting for almost 75 per cent of Omicron, the highly transmissible variant of coronavirus, Dr NK Arora, head of the COVID vaccine task force, has said that the third wave of the pandemic has already arrived.
“Look at whatever the variants have been genome sequenced…we got our first virus right in the first week of December. So, last week, nationally overall, 12 per cent of the variants identified were Omicron and the week gone by in the previous week, it has increased to 28 per cent. So, it is rapidly increasing as a proportion of all the COVID infections in the country. Now, having said that, I must also say something more important and that is that around the major metro cities, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and particularly Delhi, it is over 75 per cent of all the isolates now,” Dr Arora said while speaking to a well-known news website.
While India’s Omicron tally stands at 1,700 cases, COVID infection in the country has shown a 22 per cent spike. Maharashtra has the highest share of Omicron cases at 510 followed by Delhi (351), Gujarat (136), Tamil Nadu (117) and Kerala (109).
The first Omicron case was reported in India on December 2, soon after it was detected in South Africa in November.
Pointing to the “galloping increase in the number of cases,” Dr Arora said it was proof that Omicron is driving the third wave in India.
“India is clearly in the third wave of COVID-19. And the whole wave seems to be driven by a new variant and today it is Omicron,” he said.
With the country having started its COVID vaccination for 15-18 year olds from Tuesday, Dr Arora dismissed rumours that the vaccine, Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, could be harmful, as unused stocks from private hospitals were picked up and their shelf life re-labelled for the vaccination drive.
“It is absolutely safe. See, initially when the vaccines were being produced, the overall shelf life were available only for that period when the studies were being done. Now, today with the experience and the time, since when the vaccine was produced, the shelf life has been evaluated through various animal studies. And it clearly shows that the vaccine is effective and active potency is maintained up to 12 months,” he said.
Earlier this week, Dr Arora had said that the government is mulling to roll out a pan-COVID-19 vaccine which will cover all variants, considering the frequently mutating nature of the virus.
Asserting that all signs including a spurt in Omicron cases in the last week of December indicate the onset of the third wave, Dr Arora, however, had said there is no need to panic as the health system is well-equipped to handle any surge in cases.