Covid-19 in India: Modi urges nation to be alert against Omicron variant

AIIMS chief Dr Randeep Guelria says the new variant has over 30 mutations.



Agencies file
Agencies file

By PTI

Published: Mon 29 Nov 2021, 12:41 PM

The new Omicron variant of coronavirus has reportedly got over 30 mutations in the spike protein region giving it the potential to develop a immunoescape mechanism, and thus the efficacy of vaccines against it needs to be evaluated critically, AIIMS chief Dr Randeep Guelria has said.

The presence of spike protein facilitates a virus' entry into the host cell and is responsible for making it transmissible and causing infection.

"The new variant of coronavirus reportedly has got more than 30 mutations at the spike protein region and therefore has the potential of developing immunoescape mechanisms. As most vaccines (work by) forming antibodies against the spike protein, so many mutations at the spike protein region may lead to a decreased efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines," AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guelria told PTI.

In such a scenario, the efficacy of vaccines including those in use in India needs to be evaluated "critically", he said.

The future course of action will depend on what more data on its transmissibility, virulence and immunoescpae shows, he said.

The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia INSACOG is closely tracking the new variant of COVID-19 called B.1.1.529 and its presence has not been detected yet in the country, officials have said.

Dr Guleria emphasised the need to be very vigilant and having aggressive surveillance both for international travellers and in the region where there is a sudden increase in the number of cases.

"Also, we must ask everyone to religiously follow Coivd-appropriate behaviour and not let their guards down. Also, it has to be ensured that people get both the doses of vaccine and those who have not yet taken the jab are encouraged to come forward to take it," he said.

Modi cautions country

Speaking before the commencement of the Winter Session of Parliament, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said that everyone must be alert in light of the new coronavirus variant.

"The new variant of coronavirus must make us more alert. I expect all Members of Parliament to be alert."

Omicron poses 'very high' global risk', says WHO

The Omicron variant is likely to spread internationally, posing a “very high” global risk where Covid-19 surges could have “severe consequences” in some areas, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday.

The new, and potentially more contagious variant, was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) from South Africa on November 24. It has since been identified in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel among other countries.

Indian government has asked all state governments and union territories to conduct rigorous screening and testing of all international travellers coming from or transiting through South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana.

Meanwhile, WHO -- in technical advice to its 194 member states -- urged them to accelerate vaccination of high-priority groups and to “ensure mitigation plans are in place” to maintain essential health services.

“Omicron has an unprecedented number of spike mutations, some of which are concerning for their potential impact on the trajectory of the pandemic,” the WHO said. “The overall global risk related to the new variant of concern Omicron is assessed as very high.”

Further research is needed to better understand Omicron’s potential to escape protection against immunity induced by vaccines and previous infections, it said


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