India moving towards herd immunity as Covid-19 cases declining, no need to panic over UK virus strain: Health experts

India is perhaps moving towards herd immunity as Covid-19 cases are declining and there is no need to panic over the new virus strain found in the United Kingdom because reports suggest that it not as virulent, doctors said at a webinar on Thursday.

The webinar ‘HEAL-Thy Samvaad’ was organised by the Heal Foundation to discuss the dynamics of the new strain of Covid-19 detected first in the UK.

According to the union health ministry, about 25 people in India have been diagnosed with the UK variant strain of Covid-19. All 25 persons are in physical isolation in health facilities.

Dr (Prof) Sanjay Rai, Professor of Community Medicine at AIIMS, said there is no need to panic about the new strain of Covid, it is not as virulent according to reports.

“Perhaps, we are moving towards herd immunity because in India the cases are coming down. One of the classical examples is Dharavi slum of Maharashtra. As far as the number of cases is concerned, it depends upon testing,” he said.

He also referred to the country’s strides towards development and availability of Covid-19 vaccine.

Speaking on the dynamics of the new strain of Covid-19, Dr Amitav Banerjee, Professor and Head of Community Medicine, Dr DY Patil Medical College, Pune, stressed on relying on the data produced in the country.

“As far as the new strain of Covid-19 is concerned, it is good for us Indians to follow our own data based on the emerging cases, do research and not rely on the western data and rate of occurrence there. Relying on western data might lead us in trouble as the demographic conditions of India are quite different than those of western countries,” he said.

He said the recovery rate of Covid-19 patients in India is 99 per cent vis-a-vis 97 per cent globally.

“It is nature’s way of adaptations that more lethal or virulent strains do not go far. However, less virulent strains spread wide, bringing asymptomatic and mild cases wherein herd immunity can develop faster. Therefore, in India, we need to wait and watch and be selective in terms of vaccination and there is no need to panic because of the new strain of Covid-19,” he said.

Dr Samiran Panda, Head, Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases Division and Director and Scientist of ICMR-National AIDS Research Institute (NARI), said the UK virus strain has high transmissibility rate of about 60 to 70 per cent but high transmissibility rate does not necessarily mean that it has a high fatality rate too.

“Viruses always require a host to get transmitted from one person to another. Following proper Covid appropriate behaviour, we can stop SARS-CoV-2 from spreading further. A balanced symbiotic relationship gets evolved over a period of time as viruses go from an epidemic existence to an endemic one and with less virulence potential. The respiratory viruses in particular, through this process, attain relevance as seasonal outbreak causing organisms,” he said.

Dr JC Suri, Director, Department of Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine, Fortis Hospital, said the new Covid strain would be more transferable.

“As of now, we don’t have any evidence to show that it is dangerous. All the strains are also not clinically proven. And I don’t think that vaccine is going to be ineffective. Yes, it’s better to take precaution from the new strain. People should go for institutional quarantine. This variant is not virulent,” he said.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)

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