HYDERABAD: Observing that data on the new variant of SARS-CoV2, Omicron, is still emerging, one expert said the very high rate of “HIV positive” is expected to keep the country in good stead even though it has insisted on increasing vaccine coverage and joining Covid – appropriate behavior.
“Because India has the advantage of having a very high rate of ‘HIV positive’ 70, 80 percent, and in big cities over 90 percent of people already have antibodies,” Rakesh Mishra, former director of the CSIR-Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) here, said PTI.
Considering the protection offered to people, even if they are infected, it will be very mild and mostly asymptomatic, said Mishra, currently director of the Tata Institute for Genetics and Society (TIGS), Bangalore.
It would greatly help the cause if immunization coverage was expanded and vaccines for children were rolled out, he noted.
The spread of Omicron seems almost certain in the country although data is still emerging, but the situation is said to be better than with Delta as the symptoms appear to be only milder.
However, there is no way to let your guard down because you have to prevent the virus from becoming more virulent. The only way to do that is to wear masks properly, maintain social distancing and immunization, he stressed.
Asked about the possibility of a third wave hitting the country in February or March next year, as some predicted, coupled with the Omicron threat, he said waves were happening in Europe even without Omicron.
Waves can occur even without a new variant, he said.
The country has the advantage of a high infection rate from the second wave, Mishra said.
Even as the number of cases increases, he said he does not see the possibility of an increase in hospitalizations and oxygen problems arising.
At the same time, the former head of the CCMB emphasized appropriate behavior for COVID, including avoiding exposure in confined spaces, and vaccination.
He warned of a slight wave in the event of laxity in meeting safety standards.
Noting that new variants are set to emerge, he said the general trend is that new variants should be milder and more infectious.
However, it is possible that an unexpected bad variant could appear.
Not wearing masks and not getting vaccinated would help the virus to grow, which would be harmful to people with low immunity or those who were not vaccinated, Mishra said.
Regarding the test mechanism to detect Omicron, Mishra said: “At the moment, genome sequencing is the only way to detect Omicron.”
But, many institutes and those in foreign countries are developing specific RT-PCR kits capable of detecting an infection specific to Omicron.
But, it will be weeks before they are available in the country, he added.