Omicron remains a cause of concern even as 95% of population gets 1 dose of vaccine

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Shops closed at Sadar Bazaar market during a weekend curfew imposed by the authorities, in view of rising COVID-19 cases, in New Delhi (ANI Photo/ Ishant)

Government emphasizes a continued focus on the five-fold strategy– Test-Track-Treat-Vaccination and adherence to COVID Appropriate Behavior

Our Bureau
New Delhi  

The Central Government on Thursday extended the existing COVID-related restrictions in the country till February 28 in view of the rising cases of COVID-19 and Omicron variants.

Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued the order directing all the states and the Union Territories (UTs) to instruct their local and district administrations to promptly take containment measures against the threat of the Omicron variant based on their own assessment of the situation. Taking evidence-based COVID-19 containment measures at the district and local level, as conveyed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), the MHA order mentioned that COVID restrictions “will remain in force till February 28, 2022.”

The order was issued when India logged 2,86,384 new coronavirus infections, taking the total tally of COVID-19 cases to 40,371,500 according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Thursday.

As per the order, containment measures have been extended up to February 28.

“Due to the current COVID wave, led by the new variant, Omicron, there has been a steady increase in the number of COVID cases in the country and the active cases have increased to over 22 lakhs. Though a majority of active cases are recovering fast and a low percentage of cases are in hospitals, it is still a matter of concern that 407 districts in 34 States and UTs are reporting a positivity rate of more than 10 per cent,” the order said.

Therefore, looking at the current trends of the COVID virus, the order said, there is a need to exercise caution and vigilance. Against this background, the order issued by Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said “I would like to reiterate that all the states/UTs must observe all precautions and not let the guard down”.

It also asked to emphasize that there should be a continued focus on the five-fold strategy– Test-Track-Treat-Vaccination and adherence to COVID Appropriate Behavior.

“The state enforcement machinery should strictly enforce the norms of COVID Appropriate Behavior– wearing of face masks and maintaining safe social distancing in all public areas/gatherings,” the order further reads.

It is also urged to issue necessary directions to the districts and all other local authorities concerned to take necessary measures for prompt and effective management of COVID-19, strict compliance with various advisories issued by the MoHFW on the new VOC and strict enforcement of COVID Appropriate Behavior.

Meanwhile, the emphasize latest study conducted by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) shows that antibodies generated by Omicron, a COVID-19 strain, are not only effective against it but also other variants of concern (VOCs) including Delta.

“The individuals infected with Omicron have significant immune response which could neutralize not only the Omicron but also the other VOCs including most prevalent Delta variant,” a study by ICMR has revealed. “This suggests that the immune response induced by the Omicron could effectively neutralize the Delta variant making the re-infection with Delta less likely, thereby displacing the Delta as dominant strain. This emphasizes the need for the Omicron specific vaccine strategy,” it further said.

In this study, the ICMR has analyzed the IgG and neutralizing antibodies (NAbs) against B.1, Alpha, Beta, Delta and Omicron variants with the sera of individuals infected with the Omicron variant (B.1.1529 and BA.1) as currently India is facing the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the positive side, almost 95 per cent of the eligible population has been given the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination. Dr Mansukh Mandaviya, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, congratulated the nation for the remarkable achievement. In a tweet, he said, “India has achieved the record of administering the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to more than 95 per cent of its eligible population. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the hard work of health workers and public participation, the country is continuously moving forward in this campaign.” Meanwhile, the cumulative COVID-19 vaccination in the country exceeded 164.35 crore doses on Thursday, said the Union Health Ministry.

The daily vaccination tally is expected to increase with the compilation of the final reports for the day by late tonight.

Till 7 pm on Thursday, out of total 49,69,805 doses administered, 14,83,417 people have received their first dose of the vaccine, including 5,43,227 vaccination doses administered to children aged between 15-18 years. 28,94,739 people received their second dose of vaccine on Thursday.

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