The new Omicron sub-variants BA.2.86 and EG. 5.1 will not pose any risk to Indians, said experts here amid fresh concerns of Covid-19.
BA.2.86, known to be highly mutated, has been linked to 6 cases in 4 countries: Israel, Denmark, the UK and the US. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has designated BA.2.86 as a variant under monitoring (VUM).
EG. 5.1 is currently present in 55 countries and has also been designated by the WHO as a “variant of interest” (VOI).
“While EG.5 has shown increased prevalence, growth advantage, and immune escape properties, there have been no reported changes in disease severity to date. We haven't witnessed anything new as far as symptomatology is concerned, but many suspected Covid patients are getting negative RT-PCR tests,” Dr Vidya S Nair, Senior Consultant & HOD unit 2 - Pulmonology at Marengo Asia Hospitals, Faridabad, told IANS.
“BA.2.86 will not pose any danger to India, because India has been having Omicron since last almost 20 months,” added epidemiologist Dr Ishwar Gilada at the 55th Seminars on International Planetary Emergencies at Erice, Sicily, Italy, citing BA.2 and BA.4.
He noted that India has an edge over the two new variants, as the country has “since the beginning got good immunity so it will not affect India adversely”.
Although there has been slight uptick in cases, Dr Gilada said the variants are not giving rise to any kind of oxygen demand, demand for bed ICU ventilators and deaths are very, very low.
The WHO, meanwhile, said that “based on the available evidence, the public health risk posed by EG.5 has been evaluated as low and it is similar to other circulating variants of interest”.
For BA.2.86, the global health agency said that the information is “limited”. “To date, there is no evidence of significant changes in the public health impact of these sub-lineages and there is no justification for the assignment of a new ‘variant of concern’, the WHO added.
"It is indeed too early to draw sweeping conclusions about the BA 2.86 Covid variant. While it has made its presence known, we do not have sufficient data to assert whether it is more infectious than its predecessors. According to the reported cases, most of its symptoms are that of the flu variant, just like the EG.5.1 variant, the symptoms of Covid variant BA 2.86 are similar to that of the flu-like cold, cough, lethargicness, myalgia, fever etc,” Dr. Tribhuvan Gulati, Lead Consultant, Diabetes, Obesity & Internal Medicine at the CK Birla Hospital, told IANS.
On Monday, senior officials of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) held a high-level meeting to review the global and national Covid situation, newer variants in circulation and their public health impact.
It was highlighted that while globally a total of 2,96,219 new cases of Covid were reported in the past seven days, India, which contributes to nearly 17 per cent of global population, reported only 223 cases (0.075 per cent of global new cases) in the past week.
It was informed that the daily average of new cases continues to be below 50 from the entire country, with a weekly test positivity rate of less than 0.2 per cent.
“New variants will keep on coming and we should keep on monitoring. However, there should be no cause of concern till the trajectory doesn't say that people can get into a requirement of bed or hospitalisation or it was a kind of serious illness. So long as that is not the case. I think we should keep on monitoring,” said Dr. Gilada.
“We should not be worried. We have natural immunity because of the infection to earlier variants or variants. We have been vaccinated and when we have been vaccinated and having natural immunity and also called hybrid immunity which is more divinities we also have our memory cells in us which are which get activated as soon as the attack from similar virus or organism comes and was memory cells are activated that we have our own defence system so I think we should understand those things,” he said.
Dr Rahul Pandit, Chair, critical care, Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital, Mumbai told IANS “we really don't know whether the mutation which has, has got any implications on its infectivity, or its severity. So I think as of now, we don't need to be panicking in India at all, there is no case detected in India as of now”.