Home / News / India /  ‘Risk persists’: WHO warns as Covid-19 cases plateau in some states of India

NEW DELHI : Senior official of World Health Organisation (WHO) Poonam Khetrapal Singh on Saturday alerted that even though the Covid-19 cases in India have started to plateau, the nation is still within the ambit of risk.

The senior official warned that authorities should concentrate on reducing transmission and implementing situation-specific measures.

With 2,35,532 people testing positive for the coronavirus infection in a day, India's total tally of cases increased to over 4.08 crore, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Saturday.

Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region, said that the risk of Covid-19 remains high and no country, irrespective of their current transmission scenario, is "out of the woods" yet.

The Union health Ministry in an official statement on Thursday mentioned that certain geographical location sin the country had reported early sign of Covid cases plateauing. 

On 21 January, the country reported a total of 3,47,254 new Covid-19 cases after which the daily infection count has been reducing. A decline in Covid cases and positivity rate has been especially observed in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Odisha, Haryana and West Bengal.

Asked if the pandemic is entering in endemic stages, Singh said, currently "we are still in the midst of the pandemic and the focus should be to curtail the virus spread and save lives".

"By becoming endemic doesn't mean that the virus will not be a cause of concern," she said.

Compared to the Covid-19's Delta variant, she said Omicron is able to more rapidly infect the tissues of the upper respiratory tract rather than the lungs, which may also help the spread of this variant.

"There appears to be a lower risk of severe disease and death following Omicron infection as compared to other variants. However, due to the very high numbers of cases, many countries have seen a significant increase in the incidence of hospitalization, putting pressure on healthcare systems," she said.

Data suggests that infection with Omicron may be associated with a lower risk of hospitalization compared to infection with Delta, Singh said, but noted that the severity of illness increases with age and in the presence of underlying medical conditions and among people who are not vaccinated.

She stressed on the need to rapidly accelerate efforts to vaccinate all at-risk populations in all countries.

"There is growing evidence on vaccine effectiveness for Omicron, but we still have a lot to learn. So far, we think that vaccines are less effective against Omicron infection and symptomatic disease compared to Delta. Having a booster shot seems to increase protection," she said.

However, vaccines still seem to remain highly effective at protecting people against serious illness, hospitalization, and death, she said, adding that vaccines remain an effective method to reduce the likelihood of severe disease caused by the Omicron variant.

Singh said the emergence of Omicron means that the protective behaviours remain critical such as keeping a safe distance from others, avoiding crowds, wearing a well-fitted mask covering mouth and nose, cleaning hands regularly, keeping indoor spaces well ventilated, and covering coughs and sneezes.

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