Microbiologist and researcher Dr Gagandeep Kang addresses the fear of a perceived threat to India due to rising COVID cases in China. FAQs answered!
Feature Image Courtesy Twitter
China is seeing an alarming rise in COVID cases — reports suggest that infections may have already peaked in Beijing. As per a report in the South China Morning Post, there were almost 37 million new infections in the country on Tuesday alone. It further stated that almost 17.56 per cent of China’s population — around 248 million people — were infected within 20 days of December.
This rise in COVID cases has caused worry in India. People want to know whether restrictions are needed. The Union Health Ministry has said that the situation is currently ‘stable’, and there are no immediate plans to impose flight bans etc.
Microbiologist and researcher Dr Gagandeep Kang took to Twitter to explain the situation in China, and how it affects us in detail.
Dr Kang starts by saying that the current COVID-19 variant in China is Omicron, which has evolved within the vaccinated population and is hence more infectious now. The Chinese are getting infected as they have low levels of exposure to natural infection.
She compared the scenario to what we witnessed in India in April-May 2021 and January 2022, saying, “Lots of infections lead to lots of sick people.”
Since most people in China have been vaccinated with two doses, she feels that many minor cases of infection can be managed at home. But as the numbers are huge, even a “small proportion getting severely ill means that many people will have severe disease and that a proportion of those will die.”
She adds that risk factors for people getting very sick remain the same; older people and those with comorbidities are bearing the brunt of the outbreak.
Dr Kang then addresses the questions on people’s minds regarding the course of action Indians should take. But since there have been no new variants reported so far, the ones being witnessed in China are variants we have already seen for months before.
She adds that India already has the two Omicron sub-variants — XBB and BF.7 — saying, “They are not causing more severe disease than delta.”
‘Maintain clinical surveillance’
To successfully manage the virus, she says that China and India should maintain variant and clinical surveillance to “ensure that we detect the signal of any changes in the behaviour of the virus.”
She also feels that randomly increasing testing has little value and that “increasing testing needs a strategic approach.”
Dr Kang says that at the moment, India is doing fine.
“In the absence of an even more highly infectious variant, I do not expect a surge,” she tweets and expresses confidence that we will be able to detect a new variant or surge with our sequencing capacity.
She further says that booster doses would be required for the elderly; data from other countries prove that.
Younger, healthier people may also benefit from boosters, she feels, but lack of data means it’s not essential.
What Dr Kang stresses is the need for continued surveillance.
She says that the vulnerable must wear masks in unfamiliar company and crowds. For healthy people with little community infection, she feels masks — especially cloth masks, have little value.
She further says that right now, there is no problem with travelling, adding “Risk perception again, but no need to stop right now. There is a very little infection in India. Travel; wear a mask if you are worried.”
(Edited by Pranita Bhat)