Reinforce Covid-appropriate behaviour, task force advises state
Covid-19 task force has advised the state to stringently screen inbound travellers, reinforce Covid-appropriate behaviour with emphasis on wearing N95 or double masks
Mumbai In the wake of the new Covid variant, Maharashtra’s Covid-19 task force has advised the government to stringently screen inbound travellers, reinforce Covid-appropriate behaviour with emphasis on wearing N95 or double masks, focus on vaccination and check the preparedness of the state’s health infrastructure.
The task force had convened an emergency meeting on Saturday to discuss the concerns about the new SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.529, which has been named Omicron by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“The literature coming out about the new variant points to its high rate of transmission and its possible resistance to the antibodies generated through the vaccine or natural infection, which is a cause of concern,” said Dr Shashank Joshi, a member of the state’s Covid-19 task force. “We should not panic, but focus all attention on the best options available in our hand- follow Covid-appropriate behaviour, vaccination and maintaining physical distance,” he added.
Globally, the Delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2 continues to remain dominant but the scientific community is particularly concerned about Omicron’s multiple mutations, some of them in the ACE2 receptor- the proteins that are entry points for the virus into the human cells. “All cases of Omicron found so far are mild, but it is only two weeks since we know about it. It’s better to exercise caution,” he said.
The B.1.1.529 variant was first reported to WHO from South Africa on November 24. The WHO too has stated that the preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with Omicron, as compared to other variants of concern (VOCs). The health agency has also called for enhanced surveillance and genome sequencing efforts.
The task force has asked the state government to speed up the completion of the last mile of vaccination and also run a preparedness check on the healthcare infrastructure in case of a surge. Dr Joshi said that people should wear N95 masks or wear double masks for better protection instead of simply using a cloth mask. “Better ventilation is crucial and closed-door congregations should be avoided,” he said.