Express News Service
KOCHI: With the state seemingly witnessing the start of the third Covid wave, the sharp increase in the number of cases reported daily could indicate the presence of the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the coronavirus in the population though the health authorities are yet to confirm community transmission.
Experts say a combination of the Delta variant, which was the reason for the second wave, and Omicron could fuel the surge.
Supporting that argument, the number of Omicron cases has risen with 280 cases recorded in the state till Thursday.
That may not be an accurate number considering the sudden increase in infections and the active caseload. The test positivity rate (TPR) that stood at 4.38% last Friday has risen to 6.8%.
“It is known that the transmissibility of the Omicron variant is very high compared to that of Delta. So Kerala can expect a huge rise in daily Covid cases. Over the past few days, the TPR and the number of cases have gone up. At this stage, we cannot exclude the presence of Omicron in the community. However, population immunity is the key, and since the Delta wave, Kerala has come a long way in terms of vaccination coverage,” said Dr Padmanabha Shenoy, immunologist and public health expert.
Experts also believe that the number of Covid tests for suspected cases has dropped due to the current flu season.
Though Omicron symptoms are similar to that of common cold, scientists across the world have warned people not to take the infection lightly.
“A lot of general flu cases are seen at hospitals these days, but not all are getting tested for Covid. So we don’t know how many of the cases reported here are caused by Omicron. Since we are staring at the third wave, it is important that people with Covid-like symptoms get tested and stay in isolation. But it might be to our advantage that a large proportion of the country’s population has acquired immunity through infection rather than through vaccination.,” Dr Shenoy said.
According to Dr Dipu T S, an associate professor with the internal medicine department of Amrita Hospitals in Kochi, the waning vaccine-induced immunity of the community can be regained to an extent with the booster dose.
“By the end of six to nine months after vaccination, the vaccine-induced immunity wanes. At that stage, the number of at-risk population — people at risk of getting the infection again —would rise. With the third dose of the vaccine, we can target those facing the risk of reinfection and breakthrough infection,” Dr Dipu said.
The transmissibility of Omicron is four times that of Delta, he pointed out.
“So the possibility of infection is very high even with a short interaction. When the infective index goes up, the number of people getting infected at a given time would be massive. Vaccination will definitely help. ,” he said.