India is now officially in the midst of a COVID Third Wave, officials have stated, with the fast-spreading Omicron variant leading to a massive leap in case numbers in just about a week’s time. Most Indian cities have now called for curfews.
“India is clearly in the Third Wave of COVID-19, and the whole thing seems driven by Omicron,” said Dr N K Arora, chairman of the Covid-19 working group of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.
So far, India has officially detected 1,892 Omicron cases. Arora said that Omicron probably now accounted for around 50% of the new cases in urban areas, overtaking Delta as the dominant variant. In Delhi, 84% of genome sequenced cases were found to be the Omicron variant.
The BJP-led central government has advised all states to reactivate their COVID war rooms and strengthen health infrastructure, especially oxygen supply and hospital bed capacity.
At present, the highest concentration of Omicron cases are in Delhi and Mumbai. Mumbai mayor Kishori Pednekar said that the city was preparing for a “tsunami” of cases. The metropolis has registered almost 11,000 new cases. Pednekar warned that if the number hits 20,000, Mumbai is likely to go into lockdown.
In Delhi, 40% of hospital beds have now been reserved for COVID patients, even as the government announced a weekend curfew. Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal was among those who tested positive for the virus, a day after he had attended an election rally without a mask. The states of Punjab and Bihar have also imposed night curfews.
Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist at the World Health Organisation, warned of “a big surge” in India, to be seen over the next fortnight
Swaminathan warned people not to be complacent about the virus, which still had the potential to overwhelm India’s healthcare system, even if it was milder than the Delta variant. It was “not the common cold”, she ominously stated.
Despite the warnings, Indian citizens and especially the political top brass seem to be in a quandary over sacrificing vote-bank politics for basic, common sense healthcare protocol. In Goa, which had held off introducing any restrictions to avoid hurting the already beleaguered tourism industry, the state’s Directorate of Health Services said the Third Wave had hit the state on December 28. On New Year’s Eve, beaches in north Goa teemed with crowds of tens of thousands of people, leading to fears of a huge surge in cases in the coming days. In CM Mamata Banerjee’s West Bengal, preparations are still on for the annual holy dip at the Gangasagar Mela on January 15; while in Gujarat, hundreds attended a ‘blessing ceremony’ for PM Modi for inaugurating some religious monuments in Uttar Pradesh.