Delhi, March 16: A surge of cases of Omicron sub-variant (BA.2) in Western Europe. China shut Shenzen and readies health infrastructure. Hong Kong reports an increase in hospitalizations.
But is it the lull before the storm for India? The developments in the last few days have raised concerns and many are wondering if it is our turn next or not.
The BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron was estimated to be 23.1% of the coronavirus variants circulating in the United States as of March 12, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Tuesday.
Scientists are tracking a rise in cases caused by BA.2, which is spreading rapidly in parts of Asia and Europe.
According to the CDC’s data, the sub-variant now makes up 39% of total cases in regions including New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
In states such as Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Rhode Island, the sub-variant now makes up about 38.6% of total cases.
On Monday, former US President Barack Obama tested positive for Covid-19. The news put the spotlight back on Covid.
In India, #COVIDISBACK trended on Twitter, the hashtag directing to news reports of China putting the Shenzen city of 17 million under a strict lockdown.
China reported nearly 5,300 new coronavirus cases nationwide on Monday and almost 3,400 a day earlier, the highest daily figure in two years.
Daily cases in the US have started to decline in recent weeks after touching record levels in January, with the CDC dramatically easing its COVID-19 guidelines for masks, including in schools.
Initial data for the BA.2 sub-variant, which has begun to replace Omicron’s more common BA.1 variant, shows no significant difference in disease severity, the World Health Organization said last month Other Omicron sub-variants that have been circulating since December, called BA.1.1 and B.1.1.529, now make up for around 66.1% and 10.8% of circulating variants, respectively.
The first week of March, CDC estimates that BA.2 made up 13.7% of circulating variants, revised up from 11.6%, according to a CDC model that estimates proportions of circulating variants. The agency has revised its estimates in the past as it gets more data.
Although the relatively mild Omicron variant is driving the surge, Beijing has been stringent about its zero-tolerance policy towards Covid. Chinese media group Caixin Media spoke about China imposing strict restrictions.
Chinese health authorities have indicated that the surge is being driven by the Omicron BA.2 “stealth” subvariant, the most infectious lineage yet of the SARS-Cov-2 virus.
WHAT do you mean by BA.2 LINEAGE?
BA.2 is a sublineage of the fifth variant, Omicron, which was first identified in South Africa in November last year. The World Health Organization has said the surge is not limited to China and Western Europe.
Why are many countries in Europe starting to report more infections again? Global health expert Eric Topol has attributed this to relaxed mitigation measures, BA.2’s higher transmission, and waning of immunity.
Former Biden White House Sr Advisor, past head of Medicare/Medicaid for Obama, Andy Slavitt tweeted saying the US is next. “Based on European case increases, the US could see a new rise in Covid cases over the spring,” he said.
WHAT IS GOING ON?
Experts say the coronavirus is continuously adapting, adding advantageous mutations, and deleting disadvantageous ones — even within individual sublineages of the Omicron variant.
WHY IS INDIA NOT WITNESSING A SURGE?
India saw a deadly second wave in the summer of 2021 and infection acquired immunity coupled with improved vaccination numbers has given us the benefit of hybrid immunity unlike a country like China.