Having been battered by and, then, successfully battled two waves of Covid-19, India now needs to prepare for the Omicron threat. The new variant has already overcome the defences of many countries, including the US, UK and Europe. It is reported to be highly transmissible, breaking through the vaccination barrier, although its fatality rate is stated to be low. Its arrival has also increased the need for booster doses, particularly for those with co-morbidities.
India cannot afford to be complacent despite its comparably better situation. The increasing number of vaccinations, and herd immunity from asymptomatic infections have considerably flattened the case-line. This has led to a great reduction in precautionary measures, particularly mask-wearing and social distancing. The approach of the Union and State Governments has also become less considered and organised. Any kind of sudden increase is likely to catch them off-guard. The relative sophistication in handling the spread that was developed during the crisis period should not be allowed to dissipate owing to the various social and economic pressures. With the holiday season approaching, as also the elections in five states, precautions need to be taken at every level.
Unfortunately, as is evident in the bazaars, at social gatherings and election rallies, almost all safeguards have been done away with. People do not seem to have learned the lessons from the difficulties of the past year and a half. If this is being projected as ‘living with the virus’, it does not promise to be very effective. It can only be hoped that the scientists will come up with vaccinations and medicines that are effective against the new variant, because people do not seem to care anymore. Also, the more responsible among the citizens should set an example for others by effectively managing their own environment. It will encourage others to follow, at least in their personal behaviour. Till such time the real impact becomes known in India, discretion would be the better part of valour.