Dr Sanjay Rai, Senior Epidemiologist, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) said that SARS-CoV-2 is an ‘RNA’ virus and its form is bound to change. He said that there have already been more than 1,000 changes, however, only five such patterns have come to the fore, which have become a cause for concern.
Rai said, ‘India faced a very disastrous second wave of Covid-19 last year which was very unfortunate. However, at present our major strength is natural infusions which provide better protection for longer duration. In addition, there is high vaccination coverage. Therefore, any future wave is not likely to have a serious impact.
He said, ‘This is the time when the Indian government can consider relaxing the wearing of masks compulsorily.’ He also said that senior citizens and those at high risk of contracting the infection should continue to wear masks as a precaution.
The epidemiologist stressed that the government should continue surveillance of SARS-CoV-2, including genomic sequencing, to monitor the emergence of any new forms of the virus in the future.
According to another epidemiologist and public health expert Dr Chandrakant Laharia, there is little chance of a rise in cases in India even in the event of a new form of the virus.
He said, ‘If we study the sero survey data, vaccination coverage and the evidence for the spread of the oomicron form of the virus, then it is logical to conclude that the Covid-19 Pandemic has ended in India. In the context of India, the possibility of a new wave and a new form coming in the next several months is very less.
Laharia said that this is a time when most of the population can be exempted from the mandatory wearing of masks.
At the same time, Dr Jugal Kishore, head of community medicine at Safdarjung Hospital, said that the sero survey data shows that 80-90 percent of the population has been infected with the infection, so measures like wearing masks can be exempted.
Dr NK Arora, Chairman, COVID-19 Working Group, National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization, says that with high immunization coverage and wide spread of the disease, there is little chance of a serious impact of a new wave on India.