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Omicron, the dominant variant in India

Ahmedabad, January 18 India’s active Covid cases have doubled in a week from 8.21 lakh on January 10 to 17.36 lakh on January 17, with daily test positivity rate of 19.6 per cent, the highest since mid-May 2021.

Clearly, India is in its third wave of the pandemic, which is being led by the highly transmissible Omicron variant, said experts. However, they are still looking to confirm whether the deaths being reported are due to Omicron or the more virulent variant Delta, which had wrecked havoc during the second wave last year.

Genome sequencing
The indications based on the recent whole genome sequencing of the samples reveal the dominance of Omicron causing infections in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal, among others.

Speaking to BusinessLine, Dr Jayesh Lele, Secretary General, Indian Medical Association, stated that most of the States were showing Omicron as the dominant variant. But there is no clarity as to which variant has been causing the deaths that are being reported currently. So far, India’s total fatalities have reached 4.87 lakh with a case fatality rate of 1.29 per cent. Notably, there isn’t much change in the seven-day moving average on deaths, which was 364 for the week ending January 17, against 348 for the week ending November 17, prior to the outbreak of Omicron.

However, there is a section of experts who believe that while there is a massive rise in cases led by Omicron, the creeping number of deaths is also being attributed to this surge.

For example, Tamil Nadu has nearly 85 per cent of the daily cases from Omicron variant and the rest are Delta. TS Selvavinayagam, Director of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, said: “It is not advisable to classify every death whether it is due to Delta or Omicron. Classifications are only for surveillance purposes and not for treatment. Death was due to Covid.”

In West Bengal, too, where about 80 per cent of the daily Covid cases are due to the Omicron, there is no clarity about which variant is behind the deaths. Ajay Chakraborty, Director, Health Services, Government of West Bengal, informed that it would be difficult to classify whether the deaths caused are due to Omicron or Delta. However, a majority of the deaths are being reported among people with severe co-morbidities.

But Chakraborty confirms that “the need for hospitalisation has been far less compared to what we witnessed during the second wave which was caused by the Delta variant”.

In Gujarat, too, Omicron is dominating the new infections. “There is a smaller portion of cases now due to Delta. But there is no mechanism to check which is causing the deaths. It is the government’s role to trace the variant and check the link with deaths,” said a senior doctor in Ahmedabad. Gujarat has stopped reporting daily new Omicron cases separately.

Similarly, in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, Omicron cases are not being reported separately. “It is obvious that a good number of cases are caused by the Omicron variant. The symptoms are mild and a majority of them getting treated in home isolation,” said an official with the Andhra Pradesh government. “That only one in about 30 infected people are hospitalised in the State that this variant is very mild,” he said.

In contrast, Mumbai continues to report Delta as a dominant variant, triggering concerns. However, the metro has reported plateauing of the cases. The Hindu BusinessLine

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