No lockdown in Pune, but zero tolerance for those not following Covid norms, says Dr Shashank Joshi
Dr Joshi said that there would be guided restrictions with zero tolerance for those not following Covid-19 norms in public places
In light of the Omicron variant of Sars-Cov-2, Dr Shashank Joshi, a member of Maharashtra’s Covid task force, said on Sunday that there would be no lockdown and the emphasis would only be on following Covid-19-appropriate behaviour and vaccination.
Dr Joshi said that there would be guided restrictions with zero tolerance for those not following Covid-19 norms in public places.
He further said that while taking the vaccine or being fully immunised is encouraged, it cannot be made mandatory as vaccines have been approved under the emergency use authorisation and not as per the regular norms of the Drug Controller General of Indian (DCGI).
On Omicron, Dr Joshi said: “We have many suspects and we might already have many cases. As of now, we have to ensure two things, double mask and double vaccination. Follow Covid-appropriate behaviour and focus on proper ventilation. As far as inbound travel is concerned, we need to do a very tight screening and tracing of all coming in from abroad, because Omicron is everywhere. They have to ensure home quarantine and if anyone is asymptomatic they should go for testing voluntarily.”
“Currently, all Omicron cases in the country are sporadic and they are travel related. Domestic transmission is rare and there are no clusters and no community transmission right now. Even the Delta variant which caused the second wave had almost got extinct now so from the Delta standpoint also the infection has come down,” he added.
Dr Joshi said, “However, vaccination should not be made mandatory. These are early generation vaccines. Only when they are formally approved can we make a case for compulsory vaccination and there are a lot of people ineligible for vaccinations due to allergies. Despite this our state has done reasonably well with regards to vaccination and we have to ensure that the second dose is taken by as many people as possible and we have to maximise our vaccination reach voluntarily. These vaccines are not formally approved by the Drug Controller, but they have only got the EUA.”
He further added, “Currently we do not have restrictions and we have screening mechanisms at places from where potentially Omicron can come from. We are upping the guard in terms of Covid-appropriate behaviour, public health strategies, masking and vaccination policies. There is no question of any restrictions other than what are there currently and the lockdown will not occur at all. The restrictions would be guided by the positivity rate, so currently there is no need for any restrictions except zero tolerance for people who do not follow Covid-appropriate behaviour.”
On Sunday, state health minister Rajesh Tope while speaking to reporters in Parbhani, when questioned about restrictions said, “We have to now strictly follow Covid-appropriate behaviour and increase vaccination. Once WHO shares more information about the new variant, ICMR will prepare the protocol, which we have to follow in Maharashtra. What we know so far is that the transmissibility rate of Omicron is high, but the intensity may not be very severe. There is still no authentic information on whether it escapes vaccine shields. As of now in Maharashtra, we have tested 3,738 persons who came into the state in the past month from high-risk countries. Six of them have tested positive, while one has been found with the Omicron variant. What we have seen in South Africa, at this point, is there is no reason to be very concerned, even as we have to follow all the precautions.”