Editorial Team

The sudden appearance of omicron world-wide including the steadily rising cases now from India has resurrected fears of a possible third Covid-19 wave fraught with equally devastating consequences as the second wave, if not more for the country. Described as a ‘variant of concern’ by the WHO, although the severity and the extent of it is not known yet and is a continued subject of scientific investigation and assessment, the sheer unpredictability of the new variant warrants a full-fledged preparedness in terms of health infrastructure and availability of medical devices and equipment including lifesaving ventilators.

On the part of the government, sometime in the middle of last year, a task force appointed by the Department of Pharmaceuticals had recommended stockpiling of at least 50 critical medical devices and spread across four geographical zones with a view to navigate through any possible third wave in the country. Again, ventilators had been one of those fifty critical devices.

“For some time, the mood in the whole country had been turning somewhat positive expecting the corona virus to go away until omicron abruptly showed up recently. However, as a manufacturer of a critical lifesaving device such as ventilator, we have always been on our toes. Driven by the need to make up for the general shortage of ventilators experienced in the early phases of the pandemic last year, we had already augmented our capacities in keeping with the sudden rise in demand which we further ramped up exponentially during the disastrous second wave in the country. Simultaneously, we had also assiduously worked on developing new products bringing them to the market. Although no one is yet quite sure of how far-reaching the health implications of omicron would be, we are not taking any chances. As a result, in the last few weeks, we have further firmed up our supply chain networks, bolstering our input components and materials supplies from vendors and suppliers while cranking up average production capacity levels, said Mr Ashok Patel, the founder and brain behind Max Ventilator.

“From a practitioner’s point of view, the first thing that this new variant indicates is that the symptoms are milder as compared to the delta virus. They could range from mild to moderate fever to fatigue to scratchy throat and not sore throat, to night sweats and body ache to dry cough. So, people should be aware of and alert to these conditions. However, the numerous mutations in the spike protein region also signify that the variant could turn immune-escape thereby possibly being less responsive to the effects of the existing vaccines. Yet, there is no doubt that vaccination provides a stronger and surer protection than no-vaccination at all. So far, the variant has also been found to be highly transmissible, more than the delta variant, which itself is a matter of concern. For now, it would be too early to make any definitive conclusion in terms of the severity of impact such as hospitalization and death that omicron could cause in people, as compared to the delta variant. In other words the full impact in terms of the virulence and the pathogenicity of the omicron variant is yet to be established. Yet, the best protection against the new variant or any other variant for that matter is to keep our healthcare facilities and equipment supplies in a state of full-preparedness apart from continuing to observe Covid-appropriate behaviour, said Dr Soumyajit Mandal, Consultant Anesthesiologist, formerly attached to SSKM, IPGMER, Kolkata.

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