Begin typing your search...
Editorial: Rise of the Omicron
On Thursday, India’s daily Covid caseload breached the 1 lakh mark once again as the nation recorded 1,17,100 new cases within just eight days of breaching the 10,000 cases per day mark.
Citizens across India are stuck in a time loop, reminiscent of that sleeper 90s hit Groundhog Day, where a newscaster wakes up to the same day and same reality over and over again. The second wave of the pandemic has laid the potential groundwork for the arrival of the third wave. On Thursday, India’s daily COVID caseload breached the 1 lakh mark once again as the nation recorded 1,17,100 new cases within just eight days of breaching the 10,000 cases per day mark. The last time India had recorded 1 lakh new infections in a day was on June 6, 2021, when the second wave of the pandemic was slowing down.
City-wise trends pertaining to the surge in COVID cases have revealed the biggest spike in Mumbai with 20,971 cases, followed by New Delhi with 17,335 cases and Kolkata with 7,484 cases on Friday. Collectively, metropolitan cities such as these made up for 75% of the Omicron cases pan-India, which was recorded at 3,007 cases (Friday figures). What is also being witnessed is how Omicron is rapidly increasing as a proportion of all infections reported in the country.
Here in Tamil Nadu, as many as 9,000 new COVID cases were recorded on Friday and Chennai saw the sharpest increase with over 4,500 new COVID cases. Officials have enforced a lockdown between 10 pm to 5 am with an aim to control the surge. While the vaccination for teenagers commenced on Monday, the TN School Education department is now mulling whether to shut down schools once again, owing to the transmissibility of the Omicron variant, which spreads at a much higher rate than its predecessor, the Delta variant.
The TN Government Doctors’ Association representative had made it clear that not just schools, but even higher education institutions like colleges and technical institutes should be shut to avoid contagion of any form. The conducting of common assessment exams for students of Class 6-8 has also been put on hold owing to these recent developments. The experience of having dealt with the second wave has also given the TN government a certain edge in being able to lay out an action plan that can mitigate a spurt in cases. Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan has instructed all the district Collectors and senior health officials to enforce strict monitoring and quarantining of suspected cases and ordered for the activation of war rooms and COVID care centres on a priority basis.
On the national level, as many as five poll-bound States have also been asked to step up their respective vaccination drives by the Election Commission. Demanding double vaccination for personnel to be deployed on election duty, the EC has said that the poll dates will be announced for the five States by the first half of January. It may be recalled that last year, the EC had come under intense scrutiny for letting political parties in India have a free run right in the middle of the second wave.
It goes without saying that this march towards the third wave is an unwelcome start to 2022. For populations across the globe, who had just about had enough of staying locked in and discharging their official and personal duties through a screen, the beginning of this year could signal more of the same, at least for the time being. A silver lining to these proceedings is that the learning curve this time around will not be as steep. Having said that, the recurrence of such waves might point to a clear and present need for governments and people to begin rearranging their lives around hybrid formats – in matters involving employment, education and recreation. A future-focussed pandemic policy that takes into consideration all aspects of a citizen’s life might not be such a bad idea after all.