Doctor Who First Identified The Strain

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New Delhi: India will be seeing a spike in Omicron-driven Covid cases and a high positivity rate, but the infection will hopefully be mild in most people as seen in South Africa, said Dr Angelique Coetzee who first identified the variant.

The chairperson of the South African Medical Association said that the existing vaccines will definitely control the contagion but those unvaccinated are at 100% ‘risk’.

“Existing vaccines will greatly help reduce the spread of the Omicron variant,” as told by Coetzee to news agency PTI in a phone interview from Pretoria.

In the case of a vaccinated person or one who has had a history of being Covid infected, it will spread to fewer people, Coetzee said, adding that the unvaccinated people will potentially spread the virus 100%.

“Existing vaccines would greatly help in reducing the spread as we know that you would spread only about 1/3 if vaccinated or had previous history of being Covid infected, while unvaccinated people will potentially spread the virus 100%,” she said.

As per the South African expert, who first brought the Omicron variant to the world’s notice, the pandemic is yet to be over and will become endemic in future.

Coetzee disagreed with the opinion of some experts who said that Covid is heading towards an end with the advent of Omicron, which as of now is comparatively a weaker variant of the virus.

“I don’t think so. I believe it will be difficult (for the ongoing pandemic to end soon). I presume it will become endemic,” she said.

“India will see a surge in Omicron-driven Covid-19 cases and simultaneously there will be a high-positivity rate. But hopefully the majority of the cases will be as mild as what we are seeing in South Africa,” she added, as India on Saturday reported 415 cases of the Omicron variant.

Of these, 115 have recovered or migrated, according to the data of the Union Health Ministry.

According to Coetzee, any virus which grows out of control will potentially be a threat to the humans.

Discussing the character of the strain that is spreading across the world at a fast pace and has dampened year-end festivities in many parts of the country, Coetzee said it attacks warm bodies and is also infecting children.

“… for now, Omicron is not threatening but it is rapidly spreading with a high infectivity rate, but less severe cases in hospitals. The sole purpose of the virus is to infect a warm body and to survive. And yes, children are However, they are recovering in an average of five-six days,” she said.

Asked if the Omicron variant can mutate again and change its character, Coetzee said that might mutate in future to be more deadly, or it might not.

The 61-year-old medical practitioner added that wearing masks as well as following safety protocols will play a huge role in controlling the transmission of Omicron.

“You cannot rely on vaccines alone. Human behavior unfortunately also plays a huge role and one also needs to be responsible and take ownership of what you do,” she said.

“Vaccines, boosters, masks, good ventilation, stay away from crowds and common sense. Also know the symptoms and when to test, when to see a doctor and get treatment,” the South African doctor added.

Meanwhile, in India, Maharashtra recorded the highest number of 108 Omicron cases, followed by Delhi with 79, Gujarat 43, Telangana 38, Kerala 37, Tamil Nadu 34, and Karnataka 31.

In the wake of the new strain, several states and union territories have passed orders to ban gatherings on Christmas and New Year to restrict the spread.

The health ministry has advised states and UTs to remain vigilant and monitor the case positivity, doubling rate and cluster of new cases, and consider imposing curbs at the local level on the year-end festivities.

According to South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), 74% of all the virus genomes it had sequenced in November had been of Omicron variant. The first instance was found in a sample collected on November 8 in Gauteng.

The data shows that between November 14 and December 4, hospitalisation across South Africa was comparatively lower than the period when the country was facing the Delta-induced peak in July. ICU occupancy in South Africa has been only 6.3% during the fortnight.

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