Boosters given to frontline workers, vulnerable elderly
New infections soar to 179,723 - a near 8-fold rise this year
5-10% of patients seek hospitalisation vs 20-23% in last wave
New advisory drops need to test all contacts of confirmed cases
On Monday, more than 1 million Indians received their third dosage of COVID-19 vaccine as the country began rolling out boosters for frontline workers and the elderly, with the Omicron variant fueling an eight-fold increase in infections in only ten days.
Only 5% to 10% of those affected have sought hospitalisation, according to the health ministry, compared to 20% to 23% during the Delta-driven prior wave, which peaked in May. Most patients have displayed no or just slight symptoms, according to authorities, and have recovered rapidly at home.
"The situation is dynamic and evolving, therefore, the need for hospitalisation may also change rapidly," Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan wrote in a letter to state authorities asking them to regularly review staffing levels.Experts say high levels of natural infection during the previous wave and vaccinations are expected to lessen the severity of the disease in the ongoing surge.
On Monday, the Indian Council of Medical Research told states that they did not need to test contacts of confirmed COVID-19 patients unless they were judged high-risk due to age or other health issues and on the same day, India recorded 179,723 new cases, many of them in Delhi, Mumbai, and Kolkata, where the fast-spreading Omicron variety has surpassed Delta as the most frequent virus strain.
There were 146 deaths reported on Monday, bringing the toll to 483,936 since the pandemic began in early 2020. Only the United States and Brazil have recorded more deaths.
In recent days, hundreds of healthcare and other front-line workers including police have contracted the virus, and there were media reports that hundreds of parliamentary staff have also tested positive ahead of a budget session on Feb 1.
PRECAUTION DOSE, POLLS
Facing a third wave of infections, the government sent booster reminders to more than 10 million people who took their second dose of the Covaxin or Covishield shot nine months ago.Unlike many countries, India is not mixing and matching vaccines.
Only healthcare personnel, other front-line workers and people over the age of 60 and suffering from other health conditions are eligible for what the government calls a "precaution dose".
Despite the increase in infections, five states including the most populous of Uttar Pradesh will hold state assembly elections starting on Feb. 10, though authorities have barred political rallies until the middle of this month.
The government has delivered more than 1.5 billion vaccination doses in all to safeguard India's almost 1.4 billion citizens from the virus. Approximately 68 percent of the country's 939 million adults have received two doses of vaccine.
The entire COVID-19 testing level in India has maintained around 1.5 million per day, significantly below the potential of over 2 million.
India has documented 35.7 million cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, the second-highest number in the world behind the United States.
Based on what has transpired in nations like the United States, where daily cases have risen above 1 million, government officials have quietly stated that they are working under the expectation that daily infections will break the record of more than 414,000 set in May.