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Omicron looks less severe, but should not be taken lightly: Experts

 
By Vivek Singh Chauhan
New Delhi, Jan 15 (IANS) As a new study from South Africa suggests that the Omicron Covid-19 variant is less severe even for the unvaccinated, Indian health experts on Saturday warned that it was too soon to come to any conclusion and the highly-transmissible strain should not be taken lightly.


According to the experts, the Omicron variant is said to cause less severe disease. However, people should not stop taking precautionary measures, following Covid-19 protocols or getting vaccinated.

"It is too soon to tell if this variant is less severe even for the unvaccinated. We definitely are witnessing less severity of symptoms in vaccinated people, so it is extremely important to get the vaccine," Tushar Tayal, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine, Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Gurugram told IANS.

"The majority of people are facing mild symptoms or are asymptomatic, but we still do not know the long-term side effects of this variant, therefore I would urge everyone to exercise caution and not take Omicron lightly at all," Tayal added.

The South African study, led by the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) in the country, suggests that unvaccinated people who were infected with the highly-infectious Omicron variant are less likely to fall seriously ill, require hospitalisation or die compared to the previous Covid strains.

The study comes at a time when the Omicron variant is spreading like a wildfire across the globe, including India. South Africa has witnessed the fourth wave which is now flattening.

"As far as whether this variant will lead to the third wave in India or not, I would say that with the spike of cases in the past two weeks, we are witnessing it now," Tayal said.

"But as compared to the last wave, we are seeing fewer hospitalisations," he added.

Navneet Sood, Pulmonary Consultant from Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, New Delhi said that if we do not take adequate precautions then we will for sure invite the third wave.

"Data from South Africa, the first country to have a major outbreak caused by the strain, has so far shown lower hospitalisation and death rates but it does not mean that people become careless," Sood told IANS.

"Masks are a must. Everyone must follow the covid-19 protocols seriously," he added.

The South African study compared 11,609 patients from the first three Covid-19 waves with 5,144 patients from the new Omicron-driven wave.

The researchers found that eight per cent of patients died or were hospitalised within 14 days of testing positive for Covid during the fourth Omicron wave, compared to 16.5 per cent in the first three Covid waves.

With a daily increase of 5 per cent, India, so far, has 6,041 confirmed cases of Omicron.

(Vivek Singh Chauhan can be contacted at vivek.c@ians.in)

--IANS
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