The gradual rise in COVID cases in the country cannot be described as the onset of the fourth wave, said India’s leading biomedical scientist Dr Gagandeep Kang, adding that they are still in the dark whether the XE variant is driving the uptick.
In an interview to NDTV on Friday (April 15), Kang said that it is not possible to know if all the cases that are being reported are of the XE variant unless they sequence them all. “…It is only when we have all the pieces of the picture we can interpret data. People’s data alone isn’t sufficient,” she told the channel.
According to Kang, XE is a derivative of Omicron, and as far as they know about Omicron, it is a virus that replicates more on the upper respiratory tract. Therefore, the symptoms would be fever and restlessness, but it will not be a severe disease requiring hospitalisation, which happened to people earlier. People however should be prepared for reinfections, whether they have been infected before or vaccinated, she said.
Kang, however, also said that India’s experience last year with COVID has given people a hybrid immunity. And combined with the vaccination, this probably explains the low number of cases in India as compared to other countries.
Further, Kang also advised parents not to worry about their children attending school and getting infected with COVID. In the majority of cases, they have seen that children who are infected do not manifest symptoms. Recent sero surveys too showed that 80 per children have already been infected. Ultimately, people should not expect protection from infection.
“As the virus evolves, it is going to continue to evolve in ways that allow it to infect us again and again and again…This is particularly true for children,” Kang told NDTV.
The best time for children to get COVID is when they are healthy, she said. Finally, parents should not be asking how many children have been infected or worry about the rising number of cases. Instead, Kang said, they should really be asking how many infected children have ended up needing hospitalisation?
And, according to Kang, these numbers are “very very few”. Data in India reveals that children who need hospitalisation have comorbidities of some kind or the other and pointed out that urgent vaccination is needed for children under 12 who have comorbidities.
Therefore, shutting down educational institutes in panic is not the answer, she pointed out.