THE spread of the Omicron variant globally as well as locally is a serious reminder, if one was needed at all, that the Covid pandemic is far from over. The only silver lining about this rather dark cloud is that the variant is a milder version compared to the earlier ones, but it is turning out to be far more infectious than any of its predecessors. Omicron multiplies about 70 times faster than the Delta variant, and that is reason enough to err on the side of caution.

Omicron has an unusually large number of mutations compared to the previous variants, and several of these mutations are novel that may at least dilute the impact of the vaccines even though it is probably the vaccines that have been keeping the severity level low.

It is understandable that people are already feeling miserable due to the earlier four Covid waves and just when they thought the worst was over, there came the fifth wave which is bound to affect all segments of social, professional and academic life.

As has been the case previously, Karachi is facing the worst crisis of all. Being the largest and the most densely populated city of the country, Karachi does come under pressure.

The numbers speak for themselves, but there is every likelihood that the situation might be worse than the numbers show because not everybody is, or can be, tested. As such, the positivity rate, which has already crossed the 40 per cent mark, is based on the number of tests conducted, and is not the actual number of positive cases in the city.

The government needs to be concerned regarding this issue and enforce new rules so that the people may remain protected.

Regardless of how frustrated we feel, or how fatigued the official machinery happens to be, what everyone needs to remember is that there is no reason to lower our guard. The severity of symptoms is low, but not for everyone. For those clinically vulnerable, the prognosis is still not too bright.

Omicron might be less able to penetrate deep lung tissue. Overall, the extremely high rate of spread, combined with its ability to evade both double vaccination and the body’s immune system, means the total number of patients requiring hospital care at any given time is still of great concern.

Preliminary evidence suggests there may be an increased risk of re-infection with Omicron compared to the other variants of concern. As advised by the World Health Organisation (WHO), all countries should continue to implement effective public health measures to control the Covid spread by increasing public health capacity.

It is vitally important that inequities in access to Covid vaccine are urgently addressed to ensure that vulnerable groups, including healthcare workers, the elderly and those in the rural areas, receive their first and second doses. Besides, a strict imple-mentation of the standard operating procedures (SOPs) is the need of the hour.

Hammal Zahid

Published in Dawn, January 21st, 2022



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