News Brief

AIIMS Chief Urges People Not To Panic About Omicron As Data Shows Severity Is Less Than Delta

Bhaswati Guha Majumder

Jan 03, 2022, 04:31 PM | Updated 04:31 PM IST

AIIMS chief Randeep Guleria
AIIMS chief Randeep Guleria
  • India reported 33,750 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours—up from 27,553 on 2 January.
  • AIIMS chief Randeep Guleria has urged Covid-19 patients to isolate at home due to the Omicron's short recovery time.
  • While cities across India have begun administering the Covid-19 vaccination to teenagers aged 15 to 18 from 3 January, India reported 33,750 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours—up from 27,553 on 2 January. At the same time, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) chief in New Delhi urged people not to panic.

    According to AIIMS chief Randeep Guleria, the extremely contagious Omicron variant primarily affects the upper respiratory tract and airways, rather than the lungs—which is the reason why “we see very fewer patients with a drop in oxygen saturation or the other severe symptoms we saw in Delta”.

    He said that individuals without comorbidities should not panic and asked them not to block hospital beds. Guleria urged Covid-19 patients to isolate at home due to the new variant's short recovery time.

    “What we are seeing here is more of fever, running nose, sore throat, and a lot of body ache and headache. If any of these symptoms persist, they should come forward and get themselves tested. Because then they can isolate themselves and prevent the infection from spreading to other people in the community,” he recently told The Indian Express.

    The AIIMS chief also stresses the importance of leaving hospital beds vacant for individuals who are more vulnerable to severe sickness.

    He said: “It is important to understand that, unlike last time, this new variant doesn’t cause that much of a fall in oxygen saturation. Therefore, the focus in those who don’t have comorbidities should be home isolation.”

    “You should work on a home-isolation strategy, and not get into panic situations, blocking beds in hospitals, which is not required. Data also suggests that recovery happens much faster, therefore people will tend to improve faster,” Guleria noted.

    The expert believes that even though the pandemic is not over, India is in a much better position at the start of the new year due to high levels of immunity from previous exposure and vaccination coverage of the second dose having reached 60 per cent. Additionally, he said that “we are seeing a surge in new cases; therefore, it is time to be more vigilant”.

    According to Guleria, “we are also better prepared in terms of facilities. Whether it is medical oxygen plants, ICU beds, ventilators. So in terms of preparation and our immune response, we are in a better position.”

    At this moment, while several states have imposed pandemic related restrictions that include, West Bengal, Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Haryana, the AIIMS chief suggested that the most effective weapon against the new variant will be Covid-appropriate behaviour. Guleria said: “Wearing your mask properly when you are going out, maintaining physical distancing and washing your hands is key.”

    While talking about the new variant he said that the data received so far from Europe, the United States and South Africa, it looks like Omicron causes mild disease, flu-like symptoms and “hospital and oxygen requirement is very little”. He also explained that according to the available data, vaccines are also believed to be able to provide protection against severe disease or mortality.

    “It is very important for those who have not been vaccinated due to vaccine hesitancy, to come forward and get the vaccine. And also, some of them who have missed out on their second shot, feeling that the pandemic is over, should come forward and take the second dose,” he noted.

    However, Guleria also fears that indoor events can turn super-spreaders and produce a spike since Omicron is a highly infectious variant. He urged people to avoid crowded places, especially a place with poor ventilation.

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