Explained: Why you should still try to avoid Omicron infection
Many have asked why to take extreme precautionary measures against coronavirus disease (Covid-19) since the high transmissibility of the Omicron variant would expose almost everyone to the disease.
The highly contagious Omicron strain of coronavirus causing milder illness compared to previous variants of concern has fuelled a debate around the risk of catching the virus. Many have asked why to take extreme precautionary measures against the virus since the high transmissibility of the Omicron variant would expose almost everyone to the disease. But experts have cautioned against such views citing various reasons.
Here is why experts warned against getting complacent about Omicron:
While Omicron may be more likely to cause asymptomatic cases, the rapid spread of the variant means more people, in absolute, numbers will experience severe illness. There is still a large section of the global population that are unvaccinated against coronavirus disease (Covid-19), leaving them vulnerable to the latest variant of concern.
"I agree that sooner or later everyone will be exposed, but later is better," said virus expert Michel Nussenzweig of Rockefeller University. "Why? Because later we will have better and more available medicines and better vaccines."
Another reason to take preventive measures against Omicron is that people with milder symptoms could still infect others who are at risk for severe illness. There is also a lack of data on the long-term effects of Omicron infection, which means underestimating Omicron could put people at risk of a debilitating long-haul Covid syndrome that can linger for months or years. The “silent” effects of Omicron infection are also unknown.
The healthcare infrastructure could witness tremendous strain given the high transmissibility of the variant. According to the HT dashboard, 93.6% of hospital beds currently are vacant across 15 states and Union territory, the ongoing Covid wave in the US and Britain overwhelmed the healthcare system with record hospitalisations. Hospitals have had to postpone elective surgeries due to a record surge in infections.
More infections also give the virus more opportunities to mutate and the possibility of a more virulent variant in future is something the world can not afford to, given the global health and economic crisis.
"SARS-CoV-2 has surprised us in many different ways over the past two years, and we have no way of predicting the evolutionary trajectory of this virus," Reuters quoted David Ho, professor of microbiology and immunology at Columbia University, as saying.
(With agency inputs)