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Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh cautions against highly contagious covid variants

According to her, all Variants of Concern, including Delta, pose a higher public health risk

Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia recently spoke about the different variants of covid. According to Dr Singh, WHO has listed four Variants of Concern – Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta. All Variants of Concern are more transmissible. Among them, Delta is the most transmissible one and has been identified in over 90 countries. What is being referred to as Delta Plus is the Delta Variant of Concern with an additional spike mutation.  

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She further said that all Variants of Concern, including Delta, pose a higher public health risk. An increase in transmission means rapid spread, more cases, more hospitalisation, increased pressure on health systems and healthcare workers, and increased risk of deaths. The Variants of Concern, along with the opening of economies and societies, contributed to the recent surge in cases globally. 

She added, “Though we are now witnessing a decline in some countries of the WHO South-East Asia Region, the risk remains. The pandemic is still around. We need to do all we can to prevent virus transmission and guard against complacency at all levels – an important lesson from the recent surge.”

Dr Singh opined, “All countries need to stringently implement public health and social measures and scale-up COVID-19 vaccination to curtail transmission. Countries must continue to strengthen surveillance, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine. As individuals, we must ensure that we follow personal protective measures such as hand hygiene, physical distancing and masks, which should be worn properly covering the nose and mouth well.”

Measures such as limiting the size of gatherings, maintaining distance in public or workplaces, domestic and international movement and travel restrictions should be implemented based on risk assessment. In areas with the transmission of Variants of Concern, these measures need to be administered for a longer period. Simultaneously, there is a need to scale up vaccination against COVID-19. The vaccines are effective even against the virus as well as the Variants of Concern, is what she insisted upon. 

According to her, the measures are critical for preventing infections, reducing transmission and saving lives. “We must not give the virus more opportunities to spread, mutate and kill. The onus is on all of us – Governments as well as individuals – to together fight back this pandemic,” she added.

 

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