Home / Politics / News /  Omicron cases up, night curfews in; lockdowns next?

Covid variant Omicron has already infected over 213 people in India. The variant is at least three times more transmissible than Delta and has raised alarm bells. Mint explains if the country’s infrastructure is prepared to handle an exponential increase in cases.

Is Omicron likely to spread faster in India?

The union health ministry has said that there are initial signs of a surge in covid-19 cases as well as increased detection of Omicron in different parts of the country. The World Health Organization (WHO) has already said that there is consistent evidence about Omicron spreading significantly faster than the Delta variant—it warned that social mixing over the holiday period could be dangerous. It is likely that people who have been vaccinated or have recovered from covid-19 could be infected or reinfected. India still has a significant non-vaccinated population, which may cause a faster spread in India.

Is India ready with the medical infrastructure?

The government is readying for a third wave. As the management of covid-19 patients needs isolation facilities, the number of isolation beds have been ramped up—from 10,180 before the first lockdown to 18,03,266 as on 3 August 2021. Similarly, the number of ICU beds have shot up from 2,168 pre-covid to 1,24,598. India has attempted to step up oxygen availability across states. As on date, 3,236 pressure swing adsorption plants have been installed with a total commissioned oxygen capacity of 3,783 MT. Moreover, 1,14,000 oxygen concentrators are being provided to states under different packages.

Omicron threat
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Omicron threat

What does the country’s health statistics say?

It is not a pretty picture. According to government data, India has 1.4 beds per 1,000 people, 1 doctor per 1,445 people, and 1.7 nurses per 1,000 people. According to rural health infrastructure statistics released by the union health ministry, there is shortfall of 6.8% in allopathic doctors at primary health centres, as of March 2020.

What measures have states announced?

States have started monitoring and increased testing for Omicron cases. As per directions from the union health ministry, all travellers coming from countries deemed ‘at-risk’ are being asked to mandatorily undergo testing on arrival through RT-PCR, followed by home quarantine for seven days. A repeat RT-PCR test is done on the eighth day of arrival. Two percent of the travellers from ‘non-at-risk’ countries are tested at random. Those testing positive are subjected to whole genomic sequencing at certain laboratories.

Is there a possibility of a lockdown?

There are chances India may re-impose curbs. The Centre appears concerned over the signs of a surge in infections. The Union health ministry, on Tuesday, asked states to impose night curfew coupled with strict regulation of large gatherings—Christmas and new year are around the corner and large social gatherings could well become a super spreader. The ministry has urged states to impose curbs on the number of people who can attend marriages and funerals; restrict the numbers in offices, industries, and public transport.

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