Tue, 09 Aug 2022

By Shalini BhardwajNew Delhi [India], November 27 (ANI): The new strain of COVID-19 has been named as 'variant of concern' based on laboratory and population-based observations and more information is being gathered on how it is behaving "at an individual level and at the population level," a senior ICMR official has said.

"We are talking about different kinds of evidence of this new variant. One is laboratory-based observation and the other is population-based studies. So, taking into consideration all these, the variant has been announced as a variant of concern," Dr Samiran Panda, the head of Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases Division, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), told ANI.

World Health Organisation has called the new strain, first found in South Africa, as 'Variant of Concern' and named it 'Omicron'.

Panda said structural changes that have been observed in the new COVID-19 variant are indicative of the possibility of "adherence to the same cellular receptors with increased affinity or transmission".

"Whether it is getting transmitted really fast or it is causing clusters of infections, it still requires a little more time for evidence," he said.

Panda said it is to be seen how the variant behaves at an individual level and at the population level.

The health expert said whether COVID-19 vaccines that have been administered in India and other countries are protective against this variant is a major concern.

"Some of the vaccines are directed towards the spike protein of the virus, which gets attached to the receptor. So if the changes have happened in the virus then the vaccines might not be effective. The mRNA vaccines need to be tweaked around this change that has been already observed, but not that all the vaccines are of similar nature," he added.

He also emphasised preventive measures against COVID-19.

"We need to ensure community engagement because behaviour change is such a phenomenon and without community engagement, nothing can happen in an effective manner. We need to follow COVID appropriate behaviour such as masking, maintaining social distancing, vaccination. We need to remain a bit cautious about international travel," he said.

No case of 'Omicron' has been reported from India. (ANI)

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