TODAY -

We must collectively defeat the new variant of Covid virus that has entered India

Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi *



We have been through these columns advocating exercising abundant caution as we await a possible third wave – as has been the experience of the rest of the world. India too ought to be ready for it and face it with confidence of a nation well-prepared and one that has taken lessons from the misfortune of other countries that have witnessed third and fourth waves as well of the Coronavirus.

Just when India was celebrating the near-ending of the Covid problem, with cases falling to significant lows, and the intensity of the virus and its potency to kill diminished, comes the extremely disconcerting news about the latest variant, Omicron, that is said to be many times more virulent and dangers than the Delta variant that came along with the second wave in India.

We are fortunately in India today, better prepared and forewarned and have learnt our lessons from the second wave that was devastating. Yes, vaccination has picked up pace and also a sizable chunk of the population has been vaccinated, and more importantly, the vaccination programme is running smoothly and efficiently across the country.

Vaccination is said to be the only answer to save selves from the Virus, as no fool proof antidote for this virus has yet been discovered. But vaccination of a large section of the population is a protective cover, given the fact that those vaccinated hit by the virus suffered only mild symptoms and there was no danger to their lives, as opposed to the non-vaccinated ones.

And now, the moment India discovered few patients afflicted with the “variant of concern” as designated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) the government swung into action and has announced the suspension of International commercial flights that were to commence from later this month.

The central government has already asked various state governments to ensure rigorous screening and testing of all international travellers landing in India from the ‘at risk’ countries. These include European countries, South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Israel. The central government has also asked all state governments to step up Test-Track-Treat-Vaccinate measures.

But as always, there are voices within India shrieking why the government does not suspend all international travels, via air or sea or road.

India has already got its first few Covid victims, afflicted with the Omicron virus – two in Bangalore and four in Jaipur – even as the Andhra Pradesh government has gone in search of 30 NRIs to test them for the presence of this supposedly dangerous virus. The WHO said that this particular variant increased risk of reinfection and also it spread more rapidly as compared to other previous variants.

First spotted in South Africa, the variant too has a number of mutations, some of which are concerning. The new variant appears to have a high number of mutations — about 30 — in the coronavirus' spike protein, which could affect how easily it spreads to people.

The world, including India, has taken a serious note of the emerging situation and are announcing steps to counter the spread of this variant to their best of abilities. Already, US pharma companies have announced development of a specific vaccine for this new variant. US Pharma major Moderna has announced its plans to come out with a booster shot against Omicron. Other drug majors like Pfizer and BioNTech promised to come out with new vaccines against this latest strain within the next 100 days.

What is a trifle unfortunate for India is that this new scare is coming at a time when the economy was recovering and was in a revival mode, with positive numbers coming up on employment and growth and inflation. Now we at Sangai Express have been cautioning the people about the need to be extremely careful, especially when the Covid wave was seemingly wanting, as another wave was likely to visit.

What the experts and economists are worried about is the negative impact, if any, of the new variant if it gets too virulent and widespread. Which is why, all efforts must be taken to control it, as we as a nation cannot afford to go through another round of slowdown, shutdowns any more.

Just when schools were reopened and offices began to function, albeit with reduced strength and in a hybrid mode, the arrival of the new variant of concern is disconcerting.

What one desperately prays for is for some spread of common sense among the people, and they begin following strict guidelines of the government and Covid appropriate behaviour to prevent spread of the virus. Only recently, pictures of vacationers holidaying and crowding hill stations and beaches throwing caution to the winds were all over the social media. There was people out doing tourism with a vengeance.

Health experts warn specifically of these types of things that can be controlled, through our behaviour. Why do masses show a collective ignorance of basic facts and banish all acts of self-preservation to the wind. What is more shocking is that this behaviour comes from the so-called educated, urban folk, whose activities will make the nation pay once again.

Have we forgotten the sacrifices of doctors and nursing staff during the first and second wave of Covid? This display of collective idiotic behaviour, evident at market places in the evening, comes at a time when the world is shivering about the new variant and its likely potential to cause damage to men and material.

Yes, tourism, entertainment and adventure sure do revive a section of the economy that was completely shut down, but this crowding could prove very costly in the long and not so long run. And this is the fear that inappropriate behaviour today can lead to spread of the virus in such a manner as to force a shutdown again.

Fully vaccinated people were believed to be safe, so far, from the virus attacks. But one or two of the persons affected with the new variant were double vaccinated. A saving grace : though virus attacks, it does not or has not been seen to pose a danger to life.

But, certainly it is time the government and the citizens came together on the same page and fight the threat the new variant poses and ensure that there is no need for going in for another lockdown that the country can ill afford – economy wise too.


* Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is a senior journalist tracking social, economic, and political changes across the country.
He was associated with the Press Trust of India, The Hindu, Sunday Observer, and Hindustan Times.
He can be reached on kvlakshman(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on December 06 2021.



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