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Omicron threat: Highly infectious Omicron variant of coronavirus has brought back the fears of possible third wave in India. First detected in South Africa, the new variant has now spread in nearly 100 countries. Many European countries have witnessed sharp rise in Covid infection, mostly driven by Omicron. 

India too has reported over 200 cases of this variant, and cases are rising every day. The Centre on Monday wrote to states saying Omicron was at least thrice more transmissible than Delta, the variant behind the deadly second wave in India.  

As Omicron cases rise in the country, health experts have started making projections for likely scenarios in case possible third wave grips the nation.  

National Covid-19 Supermodel Committee member Vidyasagar recently said that India will have Omicron's third wave but it will be milder than the second wave. "Third wave is likely to arrive early next year in India. It should be milder than the second wave due to a large-scale immunity present in the country now. There will definitely be a third wave," he told ANI.

Vidyasagar, however, said that it's unlikely that India will see more daily cases than the second wave in April-May. He said the government started vaccinating majority of Indians only starting March 1, which was just about the time that the Delta variant struck. "So the Delta variant hit a population that was 100 per cent vaccine-naive, other than the frontline workers." 

He further said that now country has sero-prevalence of 75-80%, first dose for 85% of adults, both doses for 55% of adults, and a "reach" for the pandemic of 95%.

"So the third wave will not see as many as daily cases as the second wave. We have also built up our capacity based on that experience, so we should be able to cope without difficulty," he said while speaking to the news agency.

Vidyasagar, also a professor at IIT in Hyderabad, said that the number of cases would depend on two factors, each of which is unknown at present. “First, what is the extent to which Omicron bypasses natural immunity obtained by prior exposure to Delta. Second, what is the extent to which Omicron bypasses the immunity conferred by vaccination." 

"Because these are not known, we have generated various "scenarios," assuming (for example) 100 per cent vaccine protection remains, or only 50 per cent remains, or all of it goes away. The same for natural immunity escape. For each scenario, we project the number of cases that could result."

According to him, in the worst scenario, India will not have more than two lakh cases per day in case the third wave grips the country. The professor, however, emphasised that “these are projections, not predictions". 

"We can start making predictions once we know how the virus is behaving in the Indian population. Based on our simulations, in the worst scenario that we have simulated, namely total loss of immunity conferred due to vaccination and maximum loss of naturally induced immunity, the number of cases remains below 1.7 to 1.8 lakh cases per day. This is less than half of the peak during the second wave," he said. 

 

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